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Overall Rating

Awesome: 34.91%
Worth A Look36.79%
Average: 20.75%
Pretty Bad: 3.77%
Total Crap: 3.77%

10 reviews, 46 user ratings

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by Erik Childress

"The Circle Is Now Complete And The Oscar Race Should Be Moot"
5 stars

After War of the Worlds premiered this summer, I was confident in my assertion that the release of Steven Spielberg’s Munich would create the definitive trilogy of post 9/11 paranoia. The Terminal, considered a lark by some, was a Capraesque satire of the slightest fear of allowing foreigners onto our native soil. The H.G. Wells remake cut to the horror of an attack on that soil and the helplessness the common family felt when the enemy seemed indestructible even with the most advanced modern technology. Using the tragedy of the 1972 Olympics as the first struck match, Munich puts it all into perspective as a thriller in every manner of the term; a damning indictment of revenge’s infinite twist on a world besieged by religious entitlement. It’s his strongest work since Saving Private Ryan, just as powerful as Schindler’s List and should guarantee Spielberg a much deserved third directorial Oscar.

Going to a place I never expected him to go, Spielberg opens the film by going inside the hotel room where the very tragedy took place. Utilizing the media coverage as our eyes and ears, the film doesn’t dance around the details or offer up a quick summation to get the next chapter rolling. We are there witnessing the violence, with the horrified families and the false hope offered before Jim McKay’s immortal words, “they’re all gone”, silence our hearts. The word “justice” immediately springs to mind almost on instinct. Israeli Prime Minister, Golda Meyer (Lynn Cohen, in a wonderful brief performance) knows she must keep her distance from the response, but knows that something must be done.

Mossad agent, Avner Kauffman (Eric Bana) is called to duty and briefed by Geoffrey Rush’s case officer to assemble his own crew of Untouchables (in all manner since once they take the job, deniability of their existence becomes a premium) to hunt down those responsible for the massacre thus sending a message to terrorists everywhere. They include the ready-for-action Steve (Daniel Craig), reserved Carl (Ciaran Hinds), toymaker/bomb expert Robert (Mathieu Kassovitz) and forger Hans (Hanns Zischler). None of the men are professional assassins, but they all have the necessary training to take them to the next evolution of problem solving. One by one the names on their list go down, each bringing with them a further step away from their own humanity and an auxiliary response from other terrorist factions around the world.

Therein lies one of the dilemmas of the eye-for-an-eye scenario. Violence begetting more violence is as old as the Bible itself. More to the point, it’s a never-ending process. The screenplay by Tony Kushner (Angels In America) and Eric Roth (Forrest Gump) doesn’t rest on such a simplistic notion though. Clearly the karmic comeuppance of laying waste to your enemies is going to haunt those committing the acts; potentially by death, certainly in life. Munich wants to understand those instincts by feeding our initial demand for bloodshed and then reminding us that the sins will submerge us to a point we’re we feel less safe than ever.

Take the first few missions of our government-sponsored avengers. They are as exciting and never-rattling as any Hollywood action scene. Spielberg brings a DePalmaesque maze to the location of his chess pieces and their target; establishing the necessary game he’s playing as a Hitchcockian auteur for the audience but never losing the focus that the culmination of each sequence will not just be bloodshed, but a nasty up-close-and-personal slaying on a villain whom the crew and us have only been told is a villain because he appears on a provided list. Our personal connection to him is severed, but the evil is still fresh in our minds, therefore we accept and almost applaud it. Just as we did our initial hunts for Osama Bin Laden and Saddam.

Any moralistic lessons are usually met with disdain or ignorance as everyone believes their own ethical barometer comes ready-tuned alongside opinions which are incontestable at best. It’s the reaction Bana’s Avner has to the subtle fables offered by Hinds’ Carl and countered by Craig’s Steve who observes that the other side have no qualms about the differences between rejoicing and celebrating. When he engages in a late-night chat with an Arab group leader, the assumption that neither side will sway their position is evident and only the one willing to wait out centuries for progress will win the international game of Tic-Tac-Toe.

Like Spielberg’s other “R”-rated forays, Munich never shies away from its depiction of violence and how every drop of blood spills another pint. After the first execution by point blank gunfire (a tactic Craig approves of) the crew switch almost exclusively to bombings. Yes, they “scare other terrorists”, but it also keeps them at a safe distance, away from having to look into the whites of their dead eyes. Albeit for one dangerously close miscalculation, there’s a plausible deniability not just to their existence but to sinking to a level that they are determined to vanquish. Realizing that they may all be nothing more than a pawn in a larger game, their sense of security leads way to demanding further evidence (perhaps too late) and paranoia that the hunters have now become the hunted. One character has a Harry Caul moment, looking for any sign that they may have been sold out to the next highest bidder for information.

The way George Clooney, inadvertently or not, patterned Good Night and Good Luck as an eerie depiction of questionable political motivations and the media’s responsibility to call them on it, Spielberg and his screenwriters have envisioned a parallel behavior that led to 9/11 and the way our government has responded. The final shot of the film can be seen coming a mile away, but extorts a powerful reaction not from a cheap visual but a more revolting understanding of how such a thing was possible in the first place. In a clever piece of editing, the Olympic tragedy is spread throughout Munich just as Avner is wavering on the acts he is committing. Similar to the constant evoking of Sept. 11 as a rallying cry for not understanding, but vengeance to disguise the political blindfolds, we are reminded of the bloody terror that began this whole downward spiral into moralistic fortitude.

Pay careful attention to Geoffrey Rush’s handler. He’s absent from the majority of the film, establishing the mission in the beginning and then vehemently demanding information on sources later on. But look closely at his scenes with Bana and the way he offers food to him. Baklava, a Greek dessert, first offered as a treat on a walk through the park then later as not just an enticement (“you’re skin and bones”) but something less comforting (“hopefully you’ll get a tummy ache.”) When we arrive to the closing scene between these two men and Bana extends a more wholehearted invitation, Rush’s response is possibly the saddest moment in a film beset with the loss of human life in nearly every other scene; for it speaks to an unfortunately certain future where there will be less gaps in tragedies around the world.

Bana is an absolute standout as the slowly conflicted Avner, a man whose initial cautiousness gives way to righteousness and then to depths that he may never be able to fully escape. Craig, while not having a big Oscar-type scene, is a force just through his presence. His body motions alone depict the confidence that will make him shine as the next James Bond. Of the rest of the team, both Hinds (who recalls the espionage demeanor of a young Michael Caine) and Kassovitz are standouts. Zischler looks like the quiet odd man out for most of the film, but springs into action at the most inopportune time and has a fierceness that is unmistakable in his later scenes.

Aside from Rush, whose work takes on greater significance in the final third, the key supporting performance comes from Michael Lonsdale as an information profiteer with interests in the spy game across the world. He speaks like a father figure, and one ready to verbally disown his own son if one with a greater understanding came along. “You are like a son. But you are not my son,” he tells Avner, indicative of the nature of home which recurs throughout the film. Everyone looking to find a place to call their own, whether it’s one you can put kitchen table patterns in or merely a patch of sand, and when they find it they will protect it to the death.

With so much to process during Munich, it’s improbable that anyone can overlook the technical prowess to which Spielberg has crafted in such a short window. (Shooting did not begin until this Summer.) The suspense sequences are masterstrokes of cinematography (courtesy of Schindler’s List and beyond collaborator, Janusz Kaminski) and editing. Despite clocking in around 160 mins, Munich never drags its feet or pulls its punches as superior gut-check entertainment. At the risk of further humbling one of the greatest directors in film history and embarrassing myself in front of colleagues everywhere, Munich and Spielberg should not just be in line for the Oscars but consideration for the Nobel Peace Prize. After all, why not? What is the award, if not an attempt to call for peace? Spielberg has referred to it as a prayer for such action. It’s underlying cynicism that good will towards men as well as that other little thing is the impossible dream may hurt such a campaign (beyond any arguable insanity that a film can change things), but its nice to hope and that’s all Spielberg is doing with Munich. There are currently two films in production that deal directly with the 9/11 tragedy, one aboard the “Let’s roll” Flight 93 and the other trapped in the rubble with Nicolas Cage and Oliver Stone. I don’t know if either film can get us in touch with the feelings we carry around about that Tuesday morning the way Spielberg’s trilogy has. Whether anyone else refers to The Terminal, War of the Worlds and Munich that way or not or whether either side of the Israeli conflict can’t put their personal issues aside or not, Craig echoes the sentiment of soldiers and architects for peace everywhere, “Let us do our job.” That’s all Spielberg is doing and he does it better than anyone.

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originally posted: 12/23/05 17:47:44
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User Comments

12/29/17 Tom Philpott Terrible, terrible movie. BANAVICH AND RUSH ARE TERRIBLE IN THIS STINKER. 1 stars
9/13/17 morris campbell AWESOME BUT 2 LONG 4 stars
9/30/14 KingNeutron Well worth watching - very well done; see it for the history 4 stars
10/18/10 bored mom Bland film for the wise. Reading real-life media reports and history texts is way more fun. 3 stars
12/21/08 Shaun Wallner Awesome Story! 5 stars
10/16/08 BLUTARSKY 2 movie that making you think 4 stars
8/01/08 ben dover awesome acting craigs accent is spot on 4 stars
3/03/08 ladavies I wanted to love this movie, but I didn't. I'm not sure what went wrong. 3 stars
4/10/07 KLAATU very interesting, disturbing but ultimately involving film.4 stars. 4 stars
3/27/07 kathy underheart childress is a selfimportant bore. Loves his own voice more than he loves Spielberg. 1 stars
3/16/07 R.W.Welch Less than gripping account of Round 253 of the Arab-Israeli feud. 3 stars
2/09/07 Stanley Thai A very good film with very suspenseful scenes! 5 stars
10/21/06 AnnieG Oddly edited, but compelling movie. 4 stars
7/12/06 Phil M. Aficionado But for a couple of "turn off" scenes/techniques, brilliant work; I give it 4.5 stars. 4 stars
6/30/06 ALDO i didn't like it b/c bad character development & action get tiresome 2 stars
6/28/06 daveyt enjoyable, well made film. Left me feeling a bit abivalent though... 4 stars
6/26/06 Indrid Cold Spielberg does well with a difficult subject, but the entertainment value is fairly low. 4 stars
6/13/06 MIchael Interesting "serious" Spielberg take on Munich. 4 stars
5/31/06 stephanie willis A mesmerizing film! 5 stars
5/17/06 SteveO Man loses part of his soul in quest for vengeance - seen it all before, but it still works. 4 stars
5/16/06 millersxing insightful and unrelenting; doesn't pull punches or revise history 5 stars
4/18/06 ahmed perfect balanced 5 stars
3/19/06 MP Bartley Unwieldy gluing together of killings and talk about politics stop this being a masterpiece. 4 stars
2/08/06 Kim Anderson a Masterpiece. Even without a literal battlefield, it's the best anti-war movie ever. 5 stars
1/29/06 john bale Bana & Spielberg come of age in this suspenceful thriller on assassinations downside 4 stars
1/29/06 Agent Sands An incredibly well-made movie with action, drama, and laughs. And Eric Bana is hot. 5 stars
1/27/06 Minette G. Wonderful acting by Bana. Does the end justify the means? 4 stars
1/21/06 Suzz Fewer explosions with more insight into the emotions and I'd have liked it more 4 stars
1/20/06 Ole Man Bourbon Tells us what we already know: shit's complicated. Fun though. 4 stars
1/20/06 james Pretentious and boring. The movie needs major re-editing to be watchable 1 stars
1/10/06 kmdewitt Hard to follow. Kept changing cities with no indication. U see Eric Bana's ass :) 4 stars
1/08/06 John B Thriller about patriotism, with emotional honesty 5 stars
1/05/06 Ahnold Too long which takes away a little from the movie 4 stars
1/05/06 Mike V Sorta obvious but I enjoyed it. 4 stars
1/04/06 Simon Conveys the situation in brutal but honest way. Bores/hazy at times, but an admirable effrt 4 stars
1/03/06 Bill First half is a good spy thriller-last half boring .Major failure to keep the story sharp. 2 stars
1/02/06 Judith Outstanding and multi-dimensional. Great Job of directing . 5 stars
12/31/05 Brad Well Done 5 stars
12/28/05 Sandy Dissapointed 2 stars
12/28/05 Bob best film of year 5 stars
12/27/05 MarkElliot story is predictable, but the actors dialogue/development is also 3 stars
12/26/05 Gini How can this much assassination be this boring? Dreadful 1 stars
12/24/05 Blutarsky Spielberg slips on a banana peel and never gets up. 2 stars
12/23/05 ali sss 5 stars
12/22/05 Mark Spielberg is at the top of his game here. 5 stars
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  23-Dec-2005 (R)
  DVD: 09-May-2006



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