QUICK TAKE: Munich (2005)

By Miguel E. Rodriguez

Director: Steven Spielberg
Cast: Eric Bana, Daniel Craig, Ciarán Hinds
My Rating: 9/10
Rotten Tomatometer: 77% Certified Fresh

PLOT: After the terrorist group Black September kills Israeli athletes at the 1972 Olympic Games, Israel responds by sending covert hit squads after the men responsible.

Munich is an engrossing film that doesn’t pretend to have easy answers.  Anyone who comes out of the movie thinking that Spielberg has either denounced or commended Israel’s actions in the aftermath of the 1972 attack wasn’t paying attention.  The film simply portrays the aftermath in an extremely even-handed manner, presenting both sides of the argument without making a judgement call itself.  If there’s a judgement call to be made, that’s on you.

To make a movie that hinges on an attack by Arab terrorists just four years after 9/11 was a risky move.  Four years sounds like a long time, but I can assure you, it was still fresh in everyone’s minds at the time.  The film closes on an image of the New York skyline as it appeared in the ‘70s, complete with the digitally restored Twin Towers.  Aside from being an extremely effective visual statement tying the events in the film to today’s world, it was a little eerie.

Eric Bana is a mass of contradictions, a committed Israeli soldier who leads a squad of assassins, but who starts to have misgivings after a couple of close calls.  Their targets are essentially assigned via a safety deposit box.  No questions, no discussion: kill these men. But he starts asking the very questions that can’t be answered.  He wants proof that these assassinations are making a difference.  All he sees are newly vacant spots in the organization being filled by terrorists even MORE extreme than the one before.  So what’s the point?

Suffice to say, it’s one of Spielberg’s finer efforts, and it will challenge you to think critically about your deeply held views, whatever they may be.  And isn’t that a workable definition of “art?”

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