Publicity Stills of "Munich"
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Photo Credit: Karen Ballard)

Genre: Drama
Director: Steven Spielberg
Starring: Eric Bana, Daniel Craig, Geoffrey Rush, Mathieu Kassovitz, Hanns Zischler, Ciarán Hinds
RunTime: 2 hrs 43 mins
Released By: UIP
Rating: M18
Official Website: www.munichmovie.com

Release Date: 23 February 2006

Synopsis :

Set in the aftermath of the 1972 massacre of 11 Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics, Munich recounts the dramatic story of the secret Israeli squad assigned to track down and assassinate 11 Palestinians believed to have planned the 1972 Munich massacre -- and the personal toll this mission of revenge takes on the team and the man who led it. Eric Bana stars as the Mossad agent charged with leading the band of specialists brought together for this operation.

Inspired by actual events, the narrative is based on a number of sources, including the recollections of some who participated in the events themselves.

Movie Review:

One of the most hyped-up movies this season, “Munich” lives up to expectations. Another offspring of Spielberg’s well-known fascination with historical events, “Munich” recounts the aftermath of the Munich Massacre of 1972, where Israeli-government-sanctioned assassination operations carried out by clandestine Mossad officers unleashes more than twenty years of violent vengeance on Palestinians believed to be responsible for Munich. Rife with political allegories, tough questions, uncomfortable truths and striking irony, “Munich” is one of those rare films that transcends its own domain but remains, staunch, just what it is – a film.

Eric Bana is Avner, an ex bodyguard of the Prime Minister Golda Meir’s (Lynn Cohen in a stand out performance) and the leader of the revenge mission. Though soon to be a father, he joins the mission without hesitation – he is son of Israel first and everything else comes after. The complex depth of his character is such that regardless of how unconcealed Avner’s patriotism is, his humanity as a father and husband is always brimming; it is love you see in his eyes, never detached zeal.

Indeed it is because of this compassion that he is able to lead his team of four. There’s Steve (Daniel Craig), the hitman in charge of getaways, Robert (Matthieu Kassovitz), toy maker by day and bomb diffuser on the sly, Carl (Ciaran Hinds), who’s responsible for removing evidence and Hans (Hanns Zischler), the forger. All are personalities in their own right but Avner is the only one who is finally able to question his purpose in the scheme of things while hanging on to his tenuous grip on sanity. It could be said that in the end, the others lose sight and lose their way and it is only Avner who truly comes home, with whatever that’s left of him. But nothing is that easy in “Munich”. Did Avner really come home? Where is his home? What does it mean to have a home?

Asking some of the truly unanswerable questions of our time is Steven Spielberg, director and producer in what is one of his less didactic hence more sincere films. When Prime Minister Meir speaks what will become one of the most iconic movie lines of this decade, “Forget peace for now,” thus giving the go-ahead for the revenge mission, the Israelis are no longer the victims. Or are they? How do you justify violence? Should the retaliation by nature be more acceptable than the provocation? At several points of the movie, Spielberg virtually pits two characters against each other and lets them debate. He has no answers, leaves a trail of questions and has only one, murky conclusion. “There is no peace at the end of this.”

The director is in his element when dealing with the thrilling assassination scenes, which are timed to perfection and, for want of better word, taut as hell. There is a scene where Avner is supposed to green light a bomb explosion from the adjacent hotel room of ground zero – the wild anticipation leading up to the warped explosion translates into manic tension and doubt as they begin to question the shady integrity of their French liaison, Louis (Mathieu Amalric).

Maintaining the rhythm for this highly demanding opus is a group of commandingly talented actors. Bana as Avner is simultaneously soulful and clinical; a rare phone conversation with his wife and daughter is everything rending, a breakdown triggered by pent-up self-doubt and loathing, filled with lonely desperation. What I enjoyed most about the all-round acting was that it never oversteps itself by smothering the movie, yet the actors hold their own, never suffocating under the material. Geoffrey Rush (as Ephraim, the squad’s unofficial caretaker) could have blatantly overtaken Bana and the movie but he doesn’t – the movie isn’t about showbiz and for that, it must be respected.

The story telling is masterful as Spielberg’s direction is unseen. It feels non-intrusive yet totally absorbed and confident, like a guiding hand pointing out the different pieces of a puzzle that can never be solved. There are more things going on in the movie that I can ever hope to do justice to and personally, “Munich” is an experience that demands one’s sole and direct engagement. There is no way anyone can possibly enlighten another about “Munich” because it’s not just about a textbook controversy. It’s hardly even just about Munich. It is about everything that was before and everything that came after it, about how far the world has gone and how much further we can get.

In the movie, the people assassinated are being replaced by ever more extreme hardliners. When called on it, Ephraim claims that they are killing for peace. Despaired by the oxymoron, Robert exclaims, “We are supposed to be righteous!” Carl retorts, “How do you think we got the land [in the first place], by being nice?” Punctuated with wonderful acting, the fiercely intelligent script is wrought with irony and is flawlessly paced. As far as answers go, as mentioned, Spielberg has none. But answers aren’t everything. Sometimes it’s enough to simply ask the right questions.

Movie Rating:

(It takes considerable humility and poise to direct a seriously mature movie that completely shuns judgment and moral preaching. Heartfelt and emotional, “Munich” must arguably be Spielberg’s magnum opus.)

Review by Angeline Chui

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