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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 William Goss

"Sympathy For Mr. Vengeance"
4 stars

Many recent horror films tout their basis in actual events in an effort to underline their scare tactics with the dread of potential reality. However, an authentic historical context is what makes 'Munich,' Steven Spielbergís somber drama about the slaughter of Israeli athletes and its aftermath, all the more haunting in its realistic depiction of violence in the name of revenge. There will be bloodshed and there will be victims, but the horror hits home when the killer is given a face and a purpose, one that he may even question as he fulfills it. Now thatís scary.

When eleven Israeli athletes are murdered at the 1972 Olympics in Munich, the Israeli government tasks Mossad agent Avner (Eric Bana) with assassinating those responsible for the massacre. Under Avnerís command are four other specialists: explosives expert Robert (Mathieu Kassovitz), getaway driver Steve (Daniel Craig), document forger Hans (Hanns Zischler), and cleaner Carl (Ciaran Hinds).

On the surface, Munich is a thriller of gut-wrenching impact, as each assassination attempt is carried out, even if not according to plan. In one case, the unexpected reappearance of a child jeopardizes the mission; in another, an inaccuracy nearly costs the team one of their own. Spielberg executes each and every operation with a consistently gripping sense of realism and an uncompromising examination of the aftermath, on both the victims and the perpetrators. Between the brutal acts of vengeance, the dynamics between those responsible and the drive behind their actions are given thorough consideration, courtesy of a solid ensemble cast and a powerhouse screenplay by Tony Kushner (Angels in America) and Eric Roth (Forrest Gump). Though the objectives are driven by revenge, the cycle of bloodshed they create soon overpowers every ideal that caused it, particularly when the repercussions reach the team itself.

As team leader Avner, Bana is almost too understated as he sacrifices his family and quite possibly his soul in the name of his homeland. On the flipside, Craig nearly overdoes it as the short-tempered, trigger-happy South African who understands their purpose, but doesnít quite share the anguish of the Israelis. Zischler and Hinds remain cool-headed as the elder members of the squad, and Kassovitz makes the most of his bomb maker, especially when his contributions begin to endanger the entire undertaking.

Essentially, Munich plays out like a no-nonsense procedural thriller, with each assassination sequence flanked by sincere morality and significant consequences. However, Spielberg stumbles at two particular points in which he tries too hard to drive his point him. The first is a subplot concerning Avnerís meeting with the father (Michael Lonsdale) of an informant. Papa only serves as a vocal conscience for Avner and his actions, a means to justify the carnage that has taken place. Though Lonsdale portrays him as a considerate and sympathetic figure, previous scenes and dialogue have already done a commendable job of recognizing the moral pitfalls of their work with a sense of subtlety and gravity, rendering his appearances somewhat unnecessary.

As he did with his summer blockbuster War of the Worlds, Spielberg stumbles towards the third act, a shortcoming for which he isnít entirely responsible. He doesnít opt for an unreasonably optimistic conclusion, but rather just runs out of steam. Eventually, the endless assassinations are abandoned, and since that was most likely the real-life conclusion, Spielberg is at a loss on where to end his own tale. A sex scene intercut with a graphic flashback to the massacre of the Israeli athletes has a rather contrived vibe, practically making Avner a martyr of sorts for his country. Then thereís the filmís final shot pans up and rests on the twin towers of the World Trade Center. When the majority of the filmís running time succeeded on a certain amount of tactful intricacy, the appearance of the towers is almost too cheap, too blatant to create a sincere parallel between the retaliation to terrorism then and now.

Actually, both of Spielbergís 2005 efforts make quite the companion pieces. 'WOTW' mirrored the immediate chaos and vulnerability that results from terrorism with utmost realism, while 'Munich' demonstrated the consequences of vengeance that follows such acts with an equally compelling gravity. There is much to be learned from this particular history of violence, one that still ravages today, but such lessons are best when unflinching and unforced.

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originally posted: 02/06/06 06:41:46
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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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