Since George's review on Steven Spielberg's latest offering is going to take a while, I thought I may jot down some of my 2 pence thoughts on Munich. Spielberg does have a knack of overdoing things , his previous oscar winning efforts Saving Private Ryan and Schindler's List are cases in point, where the scenes of grotesque violence were unbearably long. Thankfully, in this movie he does not harp on the atrocities as much but rather concentrates more on the characters and drama, which is quite intriguing. The backdrop of all that subsequently unfolds in the movie is the 1972 Munich Olympics massacre in which 11 Israeli atheletes were taken hostage and then gunned down by Palestinian revolutionaries. This action played out in all its horror on TV the world over galvanised the Israeli establishment into taking matters in their own hands. Mossad, the Israeli equivalent of CIA, formed hit squads to assassinate all those who were behind the events at Munich. One such hit-squad has Avner (Eric Bana), the story's main protagonist. Rest of the movie is about how Avner and his fellow Mossad agents go about their mission.
A high point of the movie is its realistic portrayal of the events under study. The story has all the elements of a highly charged spy thriller and there are some moments of pure adrenaline rush, but for the most part the movie underplays those sequences and concentrates more on the fate of protagonists. The story is told from the point of view of Avner, who develops a crisis of conscience while carrying out his hatchet job and according to the movie with good reasons. No matter how one interprets the events unfolding on screen, Israel and Mossad come out as villains. For example, most of the palestinian "terrorists" depicted in the movie come across as affable, academic, family men whose only crime seems to be that they are voicing the palestinian cause. They are never shown or even hinted at causing voilent terrorist activities. It is never clear whether those people were actually involved in the terrorist acts or were they merely part of the political arm of Palestinian organizations. The movie does more than hint that Mossad is using Avner and his group as mere pawns to eliminate everybody they perceive as threats- past or future. Towards the end Avner gets disillusioned with Mosaad as well as Israel and refuses to go back to Israel inspite of pleas from his Mossad boss. Unlike the audience, he is convinced that Israel is evil. No wonder pro-Israel groups are up in arms against this film, a fact which no doubt is going to hamper its prospects in the awards season inspite of movie's technical merits.
Its anti-Israel bias not withstanding, Munich is still a finely crafted piece of work which deserves a viewing. The work is largely based on a book, so any biases are probably inherited from there. To this day, Israel has not accepted existence of any assassination squads, a denial which is hard to reconcile with the sudden emergence of body bags containing Palestinian leaders in the aftermath of Munich. Spielberg enhances his reputation as a master story teller. His Munich is a fine effort in bringing one of the most long standing disputes in contemporary politics into mainstream Hollywood's focus.