Munich - A Circle of Revenge

                                        Forty years ago, Palestinian terrorists killed 11 Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics. Those events are indisputable: They were documented live on international television, in the days before CNN and 24/7 global news coverage. Jim McKay, sitting at ABC Sports desk, said those fateful words: "They're all gone." But Steven Spielberg's Munich isn't concerned, with those initial murders in the summer of 1972. They matter only as a tragic motivator for violence and terrorism on the both sides of Arab-Israeli conflict.
                                  Munich looks into the deep reflecting pools of post-World War II Jewish identity. Watching the movie is like reading a top-notch espionage thriller novel. Yet, at the same time Munich is a eye-opener-- a picture that asks difficult questions, with well-developed characters.

   Eric Bana, plays Avner, an intelligence officer in the Israeli army recruited to assassinate the Palestinians responsible for the deaths of the athletes in Munich. Assigned to his job by Ephraim (Geoffrey Rush), who disavows all knowledge of him save for a necessary paper trail of receipts, Avner puts together a five-man team: Steve (Daniel Craig), an African-born getaway driver ; Robert (Matthieu Kassovitz), a toymaker enlisted to build bombs; Hans (Hanns Zischler), a German Jew, expert at forging documents; and Carl (Ciaran Hinds), whose self-professed job is "to worry." 

                       Together, the men begin a quiet campaign of violence against their Palestinian targets, aided by mercenary informants, who provide names and locations.His mission takes him around the globe - from Paris to Düsseldorf to Beirut to Athens to London to New York City.  Tragic near-misses, and the realization that the hunters may have become the hunted turn Avner's assignment into a nightmare. 

         Munich is Spielberg's most difficult film. It was inflamed with controversy. His direction is clear, lean, and startlingly intelligent with a brute hardness, unshrinking in the face of terrible events. Schindler's List memorialized and summarized the Holocaust as the defining catastrophe for Jews in the 20th century. But there's no closure here, no firm resolution or philosophizing. Spielberg asks, but cannot answer, a key question: Is a war against terrorism winnable? We would like to think the answer is "yes." It would help us sleep better at night. But Munich points out a sobering truth: for every terrorist killed, there is another - possibly a worse one - waiting to take his place. 

                      Spielberg takes pains to present both sides of the issue. To proffer the Palestinian perspective, he provides a rational terrorist who engages in an intellectual debate with Avner about how the Palestinians have resorted to the only methods left to them, how they are willing to wait generations to achieve their aims. Eric Bana is an absolute standout as the slowly conflicted Avner. He gives us a man who loses his way, morally and spiritually. As Steve, Daniel Craig shows a caged, homicidal fury.He is a force just through his presence. Of the rest of the team, both Hinds  and Kassovitz are standouts. The chameleon-like Geoffrey Rush shows up as Avner's handler. The key supporting performance comes from Michael Lonsdale as an information profiteer with interests in the spy game across the world.
                         The film's larger complexities, are captured by longtime Spielberg collaborator Janusz Kaminski (Schindler's List), whose photography is hard and heavenly, merciless and soft. Despite clocking in around 160 mins, Munich never drags.  It's suspenseful, but I would hardly call it a thriller. I simply felt sick with dread. 

                            This is a serious, adult motion picture. The film will make us wonder , how close Spielberg's fictionalized world of the early '70s is to our real world in the 2000s. The questions raised are not only for Israel but for any nation that believes it must compromise its values to defend them. Munich is a tool, not only for entertainment, but education and enlightenment as well.  


Munich - Imdb

1 comment:

vinay said...

One of the best movies by Spielberg.
Eric Bana steals the show in this one.