Starring: Eric Bana, Daniel Craig, Mathieu Kassovitz, Hanns Zischler, Ciaran Hinds, Geoffrey Rush
Running time: 164 mins
Based on real events via the book Vengeance by George Jonas, Munich examines the aftermath of the massacre at the 1972 Munich Olympic games where a group of Palestinian terrorists sneaked into the Olympic compound, killing two Israeli athletes and taking another nine hostage, who were also destined to be murdered. With the spotlight on a hit-team involved in Mossad’s counter-terrorist revenge against those responsible, Steven Spielberg examines the existence of terrorism in general as well as delivering a tense thriller.
Although focusing on specific events, you don’t have to stretch it too far to see Munich as a critique on why terrorism happens in general and the complexity of the issues it raises. The central member of the group, Avner (Eric Bana), is especially used as an example who, whilst believing in the overall cause behind his actions, comes to see the similarity between terrorists indiscriminate killings of the innocents and the team’s own cold-blooded ways of exacting vengeance upon those who have not been proved guilty of any atrocity. As targets are killed, more and more seem to appear.
Unfortunately, the fast-moving film can get a little confusing. The fact that the group’s mission takes them to a number of different cities and countries provides the potential for the audience to be lost as to where the action is taking place at any given time. Also, some element of knowledge of the Israeli-Palestinian situation is an advantage in order to be fully immersed in the movie, though even without this the overarching message shines through and beyond the specific events. The relevance of the issues in relation to the international political climate is highlighted by the inclusion of the twin towers of the World Trade Centre in the final scenes.
Spielberg is careful not to be biased towards either particular group, portraying them as being as bad as each other. The result of this is that it’s not made easy to relate to or sympathise with any particular character over the others since despite focusing on the assassins and convinced that they are ‘normal’ people, there is always an emotional distance between the audience and the characters. Acting by all is solid, though nobody is made to particularly stand out.
Aside from being an important, thought-provoking drama on the one hand, it is a highly tense thriller on the other. A constant sense of paranoia lingers throughout, whilst the backstabbing and characters with questionable motives to be expected in an espionage thriller also keep things interesting.
Overall Munich is well worth watching for its roles of both highly engaging thriller and a brutally relevant examination of the Israeli-Palestinian situation as well as terrorism in general.