Munich is nominated for Best Picture, and Steven Spielberg for Best Director. It is rated R for strong graphic violence, some sexual content, nudity and language. The screenplay was based on the book
Vengeance: The True Story of an Israeli Counter-Terrorist Team by George Jonas, and the film’s most notable actor is Geoffrey Rush.
Eric Bana is Avner, the leader of a group of five men instructed to assassinate the men believed responsible for planning the murders of 11 Israeli athletes at the 1972 Olympics in Munich. Note that the film was “inspired by real events,” which means some liberty was taken to make a film that would make the story cinematically appealing, and not just a documentary.
It is a long movie, 164 minutes, and I didn’t like it much at first. Spielberg drew me in though, slowly and inexorably. I was only 17 years old when this happened, and so I didn’t know much about it. The message I was left with at the end of the movie is that an eye for an eye, or more violence as payment for violence, has no end. There is also a disturbing segment near the end of the film where the violence toward the Israelis’ is juxtaposed with images of Avner having sex with his wife. I don’t think a film should ever have violence and sex put together that way, and I think Spielberg made a mistake in doing that. If he was trying to make the viewer feel unsettled, it worked. In retrospect, perhaps he was trying to make a point about the contradictions in an assassin’s life.
The film would be put to good use by showing it on college campuses in philosophy or history classes. What it did well was show the ambivalence the assassins had for the job they were carrying out. The sets, costumes and music are impeccably rendered to evoke the early 1970’s. Watching it on DVD would be the way to see it because there are some interesting things being said in subtitles that go by very quickly in the theater. At home you could skip back to read it again more slowly if necessary.
At the end of the film Spielberg shows the twin towers as seen across the river from Brooklyn, and it confirmed for me that 35 years later, the killing continues to go on and on and hasn’t solved anything.