Saturday, December 24, 2005


Munich (Director: Steven Spielberg)

MUNICH has been nominated for 5 Oscars:

Best Picture
Best Director: Steven Spielberg
Adapted Screenplay: Tony Kushner, Eric Roth
Original Score: John Williams
Best Editing: Michael Kahn

Spielberg's last was this summer's War of the Worlds. He joins the 2-movie club with Wes Craven, Adam Shankman, Tim Burton, Robert Rodriguez, and Louis Leterrier. He won't be the last, either. This is the 3rd time he's done it. In 1993, he did Jurassic Park and Schindler's List. In 1997, he did The Lost World and Amistad. Notice a theme? He's doing the actor equivalent of what Ben Affleck talks about in Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back. First, you do the safe picture, then you do the art picture. Written by Tony Kushner ("Angels in America") and Eric Roth (Forrest Gump, The Insider) from the novel Vengeance by George Jonas, which was also made into a TV movie called Sword of Gideon in 1986.

A lot has been made of the Israeli opposition to this movie. The Jonas book has been declared false by some critics, and there's some resentment that the Jewish Spielberg has latched on to the film's story that paints Israelis in a bad light. Inaccuracies aside, though (real or imagined), Spielberg has found a story that paints his perspective of the post-9/11 world, and that's the point.

In 1972 during the Olympic Games in Munich, Palestinian terrorists held 11 Israeli athletes hostage, and by the end of it, all of them were killed. In this story, Israel plots a revenge scheme to track down all of the Palestinians responsible. Here, Avner (Eric Bana) is the leader of a team of five (including Mathieu Kassovitz, Cirian Hinds, Hanns Zischler, and Daniel Craig) who go to Europe in order to do just that. They get names from shady underworld guys and basically the movie shows the crew going to each new name, rigging up an assassination plot, and showing either the success and/or complications of it. As the danger mounts, so does the perception that this is not a good cause.

Spielberg's theme of "violence begets violence" and "cut off one head, another grows back" is excellently covered here, and his panache behind the camera is still mesmerizing. The beginning of this movie, where we see a sort of prologue which then enters a media blitz, draws you right in. There are images in this film you won't shake. But this movie ain't perfect. It's downright draining. It's full-throttle for a good two-thirds of the film. Then it sort of drags along, making sure you know that these kinds of missions really just end up costing lives unnecessarily, costs too much money, and starts making those who live it paranoid for the rest of their lives. It's important, but I don't think Spielberg ever thinks something is being said enough.

Nothing about the film is horrible, but it sags a little under the weight (in other words, here's a criticism I hate lobbing at a movie--it's a little too long). Performances, I love Eric Bana. This guy needs a big break after being in Hulk and Troy (does he only do 1-name titled movies? He was first noticed in the movie Chopper). There's some very good lines here, especially one said by Kassovitz (best known for his turn as the love interest in Amelie) about how the work he's doing conflicts with what he feels is special about being Jewish.

It's definitely a must-see.


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