After somewhat popish “War of the world“, the Master returns with yet another movie about a disaster. This time, the disaster is not caused by some foreign alien creatures, but is caused by ourselves. We found our enemy and it is us.
At the beginning of the movie, someone says “Israelis and the Palestinians were made for each other“. Their battle seems never-ending and although they both treat themselves holier than the other, one cannot help noticing that their actions are the same. A tooth for a tooth. An arm for an arm. The only problem is…who made the wheel spin in the first place?
The olympic games in Munich (1972) are best remembered by the massacre of the israelian athletes. Palestinians broke into their olympic village and killed two instantly, while other 9 left with them as hostages. On the airport, right before the escape, they executed all 9 of them.
The movie begins with Golda Meir (the prime minister of Israel at that time) summoning a MOSAD agent, Avner, the main character of the movie, to send him on a retaliation mission. He must find and execute all of those who “had a hand in Munich massacre”. He is given a team of men, all proficient in various tehnics of killing and off they go, leaving a trail of blood, smoke and rubble.
By now, Spielberg has probably gained the status of one of the top three directors of the second half of the twentieth century (my oh my) and it shows. The details are extrodinary. The violence (and plenty of it) is down to the point, harsh and realistic. The thing I noticed immediately was the sound of the guns. They sounded different, heavier and more realistic than they usually sound in action-type movies. The detailed surroundings give you a better feeling of realism. Despite the fact that the movie was only based on the real events, since the whole thing was a top secret mission where only the outcome was known (you cannot hush a bomb explosion that rips out half of the hotel story) it shows just how brutal and non-civilised the Israelis could/can be. Despite the fact that they treat themselves as the “chosen” people.
Spielberg`s best trait are battles that go on inside a man. Through-out the movie we see each member of the “death” squad battle with their own fears and desires, between what he believes in and what he is ordered to do. We see the pain they are causing to others, a bloody vendetta, which they are executing in the name of peace. They kill for peace. And the whole movie is good at depicting the futility of such killings, of such actions which only make the wheel spin further. And faster. “All of this blood comes back to us” murmurs one of characters in the movie when the Palestinians strike back, retaliating for each and every fallen comrade.
Should the Israelis be offended by this movie? Should they boo it and prevent it from appearing in their theaters? Is the movie trying to reverse the dogma about good Israelis and bad, dirty Palestinians who are just a bunch of killers? There is no simple answer to this question. The movie is showing how the Israelis are using the same tactics as the Palestinians. Even more, in the movie, the Palestinians that survived the airport massacre and managed to escape, are shown as heroes on television, while our death squad has to remain annonymous. Is being a killer and being proud about it better than being a killer and sneaking around while dispensing evil? When Avner comes back to Israel, all he gets is a “job well done” hug by an army official and nothing else. No medal, no public recognition, no nothing. And we can see how through-out the movie, he is killed by his own fears and his own deeds. Is the movie good at relaying the message that “evil only spawns more evil“? I think it is, however…
There are bad sides.
The movie does not mention the Americans at all. It does not state the reason why the palestinians and the israelis are fighting in the first place. It does not give the reason for the Munich massacre. So the whole story appears as a “simple” fighting back. Defending. And that, in my opinion, is wrong. I agree, the conflict is too complicated for a single movie, but “Munich” omits too much in order to make the story flow. Good for the story, bad for the reality behind it.
As Golda Meir says “Forget peace for now. We must show them we are strong“. And that is exactly what this movie is about. A demonstration of force, which everybody knows is not going to do anything good but has to be executed anyway for the sake of the balance. For the sake of the bodycount. The movie is not good at showing that and I think most of the audience (especially the american audience) will not grasp that since the theme of revenge is too strong.
Another bad thing (which is also Steven`s signature) is that he sucks when it comes to relationships. Be it between a mother and a son or between a husband and a wife, the movie`s weakest point are those few moments when Avner is visiting his pregnant wife or when he comes back to his mother. It`s like they never met before and are there just to say hello. No charisma, no spark, no nothing.
And finally, the Schindler`s effect. You remember Schindler`s list`s ending, where Oskar Schindlers breaks down and cries in front of his car, thinking about how many Jews could he save if he traded his car in? Same happens here, with Avner. The degradation of his conscience is so sudden and so fast that one cannot help but think Avner is faking it. It`s not till the last scene that he finally realises his own deeds and breaks down, crying and screaming. The ending is the weakest part of the whole movie which runs just under three hours.
It`s good if you know the whole story. It`s good if you know the background. And it`s good if you are going to see it for the actors alone. But if you are thinking about learning something new in this movie, if you are going to see it for some undiscovered gems of the history, forget it. This is all common knowledge. The only problem is, a lot of people are ignorant.
If you will check the Internet movie database forums, you`ll see a comment where a certain invidivual thinks that the most disgusting part of the movie is the sex scene with the pregnant lady. Totally dude. Right on!