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Overall Rating

Awesome: 34.91%
Worth A Look36.79%
Just Average: 20.75%
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Sucks: 3.77%

10 reviews, 46 user ratings

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by Robert Flaxman

"One out of two ain't bad."
4 stars

The charges against Steven Spielberg as a director have long been the same: he makes easy films that don’t challenge the viewer intellectually, his endings are too happy, he’s too slick. Even Schindler’s List and Saving Private Ryan did not escape criticism along these lines. With Munich, Spielberg has made a film that does present some serious questions, doesn’t give easy answers, and doesn’t take specific sides. He must have a hard time concentrating on one style or the other, though, because even as Munich is a relatively effective thinker, it has questionable execution and a plot that drags like crazy.

The film’s title only tells part of the story – the murder of Israeli athletes by a Palestinian terrorist group at the 1972 Munich Olympics actually serves as a jumping-off point for the narrative, which focuses on a group of five Mossad agents assigned to track down and kill a number of Palestinians supposedly responsible for organizing the attack in Munich.

Throughout the film, Spielberg poses a number of questions for both the Israeli and Palestinian sides. In particular, he seems almost amused by the way in which both sides seem to have very similar talking points. Each insists that they have a right to the land and their own nation; each feels that force is required in some capacity; each considers the other to be a terrorist state. But Spielberg himself takes no major stance on which side is actually “right.” The Munich massacre is quite clearly depicted as barbaric, but Munich is not a propaganda film for Israel in which Mossad agents are depicted as heroic avenging angels.

In fact, it’s quite the contrary. The team, led by Avner (Eric Bana), is depicted as conflicted about its mission, overly desperate to exact vengeance, unsure of whether or not the Palestinians targeted are truly guilty, shoddily organized, and prone to mistakes. Haunted by the events in Munich, they feel a particular need – one the Israeli government is shown as feeling as well – to take an eye for an eye, but Spielberg is quite clear about how dangerous that feeling is. After each assassination, the team receives news that the Palestinians have carried out another attack with a death toll much higher than one. Violence begets violence; while it’s understandable that Israel did not want to be perceived as weak, the feeling generated by Munich is that the Biblical law of the land might not be a viable response in the 20th century, even (or especially) in the Middle East.

Yet Spielberg is acutely aware of how Munich represented a sea change for the Jewish people. Late in the film, he juxtaposes a love scene between Avner and his wife with the failed rescue attempt at the Munich airport and the subsequent murder of the remaining nine Israeli athletes. At first the choice seems bizarre and off-putting, but there is perhaps no stronger way for Spielberg to drill into the viewer’s mind just how damaging the events were from a Jewish perspective.

Even as he does not lionize the Mossad assassinations, it would be easy enough for Spielberg to blame the Palestinians for causing them, but he recognizes the cycle of violence has no obvious beginning. A conversation between Avner (masquerading as a member of the Red Army Faction) and a young PLO member is very even-handed as far as both sides making their points on the conflict. At another point, Avner talks to a target of the team’s while on a hotel balcony; the man discusses the newlywed Jewish couple next door and the noise level of their lovemaking not with malice but with humor.

To suggest that Munich’s ideology – or lack thereof – makes it a perfect film, however, would be going a bit far. As spot on as Spielberg is with the ideas, the film’s narrative leaves a bit to be desired. At 160 minutes, there are few points made in the entire second half that weren’t made just fine in the first; at the very least, things could have been tightened up substantially. In particular, a plot where the team goes after a female assassin who dispatched one of their members has pretty much no place in the film; the relationship between the team (and Avner in particular) and their French contact is also dragged out well past the point of necessity.

Even besides the dragging, the plot is frequently too straightforward. The scenes in which the team expresses the most doubt about their mission are sandwiched all too neatly between the extended assassination sequences, as though definite breaks needed to be taken. You can practically see things unfolding on a flow chart as Munich rolls along.

Still, the film at least has a good deal of merit as a political statement. Spielberg may have been a bit careless with the film’s layout and pacing, but it would have been all too easy for him to screw up the film’s politics, and he doesn’t. Maybe it’s better as philosophy than as filmmaking, but at least Munich hits one of its goals right on target.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=13666&reviewer=385
originally posted: 02/06/06 21:12:30
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User Comments

12/28/17 Tom Philpott Terrible, terrible movie. BANAVICH AND RUSH ARE TERRIBLE IN THIS STINKER. 1 stars
9/12/17 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
12/20/08 Shaun Wallner Awesome Story! 5 stars
10/15/08 BLUTARSKY 2 movie that making you think 4 stars
7/31/08 ben dover awesome acting craigs accent is spot on 4 stars
3/02/08 ladavies I wanted to love this movie, but I didn't. I'm not sure what went wrong. 3 stars
4/09/07 KLAATU very interesting, disturbing but ultimately involving film.4 stars. 4 stars
3/26/07 kathy underheart childress is a selfimportant bore. Loves his own voice more than he loves Spielberg. 1 stars
3/15/07 R.W.Welch Less than gripping account of Round 253 of the Arab-Israeli feud. 3 stars
2/08/07 Stanley Thai A very good film with very suspenseful scenes! 5 stars
10/20/06 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
6/27/06 daveyt enjoyable, well made film. Left me feeling a bit abivalent though... 4 stars
6/25/06 Indrid Cold Spielberg does well with a difficult subject, but the entertainment value is fairly low. 4 stars
6/12/06 MIchael Interesting "serious" Spielberg take on Munich. 4 stars
5/30/06 stephanie willis A mesmerizing film! 5 stars
5/16/06 SteveO Man loses part of his soul in quest for vengeance - seen it all before, but it still works. 4 stars
5/15/06 millersxing insightful and unrelenting; doesn't pull punches or revise history 5 stars
4/17/06 ahmed perfect balanced 5 stars
3/18/06 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
1/28/06 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
1/20/06 Suzz Fewer explosions with more insight into the emotions and I'd have liked it more 4 stars
1/19/06 Ole Man Bourbon Tells us what we already know: shit's complicated. Fun though. 4 stars
1/19/06 james Pretentious and boring. The movie needs major re-editing to be watchable 1 stars
1/09/06 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
1/04/06 Ahnold Too long which takes away a little from the movie 4 stars
1/04/06 Mike V Sorta obvious but I enjoyed it. 4 stars
1/03/06 Simon Conveys the situation in brutal but honest way. Bores/hazy at times, but an admirable effrt 4 stars
1/02/06 Bill First half is a good spy thriller-last half boring .Major failure to keep the story sharp. 2 stars
1/01/06 Judith Outstanding and multi-dimensional. Great Job of directing . 5 stars
12/30/05 Brad Well Done 5 stars
12/27/05 Sandy Dissapointed 2 stars
12/27/05 Bob best film of year 5 stars
12/26/05 MarkElliot story is predictable, but the actors dialogue/development is also 3 stars
12/25/05 Gini How can this much assassination be this boring? Dreadful 1 stars
12/23/05 Blutarsky Spielberg slips on a banana peel and never gets up. 2 stars
12/23/05 ali sss 5 stars
12/21/05 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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