Tuesday, October 21, 2008
Munich obviously isn't a new movie, and I assume most people know the gist of the plot. Just in case it slips from your memory: following the abduction and murder of the Israeli athletes at the 1972 Olympic Games, Prime Minister Golda Meir authorizes a clandestine group to assassinate the figures involved in the planning and financing of the terrorist operation. The movie follows the leader of the group as he morphs from confident operative to a morally plagued paranoid.
Let me state for the record that the accounts of the assassination squad are deemed by historians as historically shaky and/or a downright fabrication. While Meir's Israel was certainly a nation that would strike back, and strike back hard, it's difficult to believe they would do so with a hodge-podge group of accountants, toymakers, and untested operatives.
That's not a fault of Spielberg but of the source material, and Spielberg acknowledges this by treating it as a fictional portrayal that underlines the moral gray area of Jew/Arab relations.
Visually Spielberg displays a deft hand behind the camera that is worthy of praise, and as a movie Munich is an interesting and solid film. However, I take issue with the moral ambiguity that he tries to show, as the agents become no better/worse than those they've been sent to kill.
Do you want to know the clearest indication (on screen) that the two groups are as different as night and day? The Israeli heroes of the movie, for all the 'gray areas' they inhabit, mourn the bloodshed they've caused, fear for their own souls and sanity, and go far out of the way to try and remove innocents from harm. On the other hand their opposition kidnaps and murders unarmed men while Palestinian women and children cheer the news on TV.
To me, as filmed, Munich firmly shows there is no comparison between the two groups. I have a feeling that conclusion was Spielberg's actual intent, and if so I applaud the man for (covertly) skirting convention by stating that there is or at least can be a right and a wrong side in even the bloodiest of conflicts.
3.25 out of 4, 80 out of 100.