I am having trouble determining what I think of Munich. It is a well shot, well acted, well paced, and well scripted movie. Eric Bana is superb as an Israeli who is hired to assassinate the Palestinian masterminds behind the 1972 Munich terrorist attack. However, there is just something about the movie with which I didn’t connect. Another way putting it is that I know I should give it an 8 but I only want to give it a 6.

I’d rather not deal with the possible historical merits or mistakes. I’ll just assume it’s loosely based on real events and take it with a grain of salt. However, I am having trouble understanding why some think this paints Israel in a highly critical light. I didn’t come out with an overly negative view of Israel. The Machiavellian nature of its actions are both understandable and expected. Haven’t we seen plenty of films that paint the US government in the same light? I think the film does show well the destructive impact such activities (viz. assassination) has on the security and well-being of the individuals involved, and I appreciated Spielberg’s portrayal of how a man motivated by patriotic desires can still be torn apart by what his country asks of him. The follow up question of whether if it is worth it or not would take some thought.

My only real complaint with this movie is Spielberg’s failure to use Dainel Craig, the next James Bond, to his full potential. Craig’s character could have added some extra zing to the overall plot, indeed I expected him to, but it never happened. A shame.

Pros: A well made and interesting movie, strong acting.
Cons: Somehow doesn’t engage the audience? I don’t know.

5 thoughts on “Munich

  1. I completely agree with your take on the disconnect between the film and its audience. I can’t even describe what it is that doesn’t connect, but I left the movie with an emptiness. Perhaps that was the point.

    I thought the most powerful moment in the film was the conversation in a stairwell between the Israeli Assassin and the Palestinian Terrorist. For the first time I felt an empathy toward the Palestinian cause. Whether there is any historical accuracy in the follow up assassinations is not relevent.

    I was expecting another Hollywood Blockbuster to make a strong political statement. What we instead got was a film which showed the struggle between Israelis and Palestinians in human terms without taking one side or the other. You come out of it feeling as though both sides of the conflict are equally guilty and innocent, good and evil.

  2. Ah yeah, good points, but I wasn’t swayed much to be more empathetic to the Palestenian terrorist’s cause. Clearly, they want a homeland and they have women and childen too, but their wanton disregard for civilian and “non-combatant”‘s lives does a lot to kill my empathy for their cause.

    I’m not saying the Israeli actions in this movie are good, but at least they went to great lengths to get only their targets, who were all known terrorists (well, at least that’s what Israel wanted us to believe despite providing no evidence). The assassination of the hooker is an obvious exception to this, and I think it just shows the danger of corruption this type of activity encourages.

    Still, I think it’s interesting we both felt that the movie didn’t really connect.

  3. I think it would be pretty easy to argue that a disconnect was a desired affect of the filmmaker. I think that a sense of emptyness is a perfectly acceptable response without it being a particularily negative thing.

    I should probably clarify the empathy comment. I want to emphasize that this empathy does not translate to me condoning their methods or sympathizing with the aftermath. I’m simply glad that this film gave their cause a human element which forced me to view it in a different way.

    Without focusing too much on details… why did the hooker kill the poor fellow? Was she a hooker? Was she an assassin?

    Finally… I was a little disappointed with the very end of the film. When the final shot panned across the NYC skyline to the Twin Towers I felt that a great movie was ended with a cliche.

  4. With regards to the comments regarding PLO and their lack of discretion towards non-military targets…

    Certainly the Israeli operation, as was demonstrated by the continuous references to how much each target cost the Israeli government, is funded by pretty deep pockets. The PLO however, is not so well funded (as is my understanding). This ties in to real life pretty realistically. I can certainly understand the predicament of the PLO, and the predicament of Al Queda and other like organizations. While I do not completely agree with their political, religious, or cultural motivations, their actions against non-military targets are (in my opinion) somewhat justified by their relative lack of available resources. The attacks against the USA on 9/11/01, while certainly a national tragedy for all of us, were very effective. If the PLO, Al Queda, et al were to concentrate their attacks on purely military targets, they would be wiped off the map. Imagine if the handfull of Al Queda operatives would have attempted to take the Pentagon and the World Trade Towers by storming in with machine guns blazing. The entire thing would have been a grandious waste of the limited resources they have available. They would have been utterly and embarassingly defeated. This is why they needed to resort to more unconvential means of warfare. If they had the most impressive military war-machine on earth, it would have been a very different story. However, they are for the most part a poorly-funded, undertrained bunch of poor folks. They conducted the most devestating attack that they could. Can you expcet any less?

    By attacking unarmed or unprepared targets, they played the most effective hand that was available to them. In the movie, taking the Olympic athletes prisoner was the most effective, loudest, most dramatic way to make their cause a reality. Certainly they could not have tried to take on the Israeli military. On 9/11, Al Queda took advantage of an enemy weakness. Only by exploiting this weakness could they have hoped to deal an effective blow against their enemy. To label their actions as entirely evil and undeserved is naive (in my opinion).

    That is not to say that their culture and religion is not pretty danged backwards. It is just to say that their methods were fairly effective given the resources available to them. In some regards-“good for them.” And that is certainly not to say I agree with them. I merely claim to understand why they felt compelled to attack the targets that they did.

    On that note, there was much about the movie that I did not understand, and it did leave me a bit empty. I rather lost track of who was a good-guy and who was a bad guy.

    Steve, I thought that Daniel Craig’s character was appropriately mysterious and enjoyably violent. How do you think his role could have been better?

  5. Micah,

    You’ve made this point before, and I’m not really sure why it’s so important to remember. They may only have the means to attack unarmed, unprepared civilian targets, but that doesn’t make it any less atrocious and barbaric. They just happen to be barbarians who are aware of what their capabilites are. And it’s not like it takes an especially brainy terrorist to realize a few truck bombs are not going to do jack squat against our aircraft carriers, jet fighters, and tanks. Anyone with the faintest grasp of firepower and explosives could determine this and make plans accordingly. These terrorists’s actions are only “justified” in the most callous, tactical sense. We’re up against savvy terrorist organizations with relatively limited resources who know how to make us squirm, doubt, and second-guess as much as possible, but that should do absolutely nothing to abate our disgust and resolve to exterminate these f***ers. If anything our resolve should grow.

    I will always and unequivocally label the 9/11 attacks as evil. I’m rather shocked you do not share the same sentiment. I fail to see how the slaughter of 3000 of my fellow citizens and the destruction of 2 towers has a quality of goodness that rescues it from being fully evil. I don’t think smart tactics entail any moral qualities that might do the rescuing. I also refuse to buy into the argument that the US “had it coming” and deserved these attacks in some way. The US isn’t a pure virgin when it comes to world affairs, but it’s not like any country is. We’re just the biggest, fattest target, and we’re full of infidels. I have not seen any evidence at all proving we are somehow supremely culpable for the failure, backwardness, and economic despair that plagues much of the mid-East.

    As far as Daniel Craig goes, he has shown himself to be a rather talented actor, but in this movie he was relegated to only a few scenes and with fewer lines. I was expecting his preference for violence and Bana’s preference for caution to conflict more, possibly in a key dramatic moment, but it didn’t.

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