Directed by: Steven Spielberg
Written by:Tony Kushner, Eric Roth
Starring: Eric Bana, Daniel Craig, Ciaran Hinds, Mathieu Kassovitz, Hanns Zischler, Geoffrey Rush
Released: January 26, 2006
Grade: B+

At the 1972 Summer Olympic Games in Munich, Germany, 11 Israeli athletes were taken hostage and later killed by a Palestinian terrorist organisation known as Black September.  It was the darkest day in the modern Olympic movement.  Instead of celebrating athletic abilities and cultural diversity, the world was shock.  Many people will remember where they were when they first heard this news.

Steven Spielberg’s film is not a recount of the Munich tragedy.  It focuses on the aftermath and the revenge that the Israeli government sought.  Through their intelligence agency, known as Mossad, a team was secretly recruited to find and kill the Black September operatives who planned the events in Munich.

This team is led by a man named Avner (Bana).  He has been chosen because he is unknown and this will make it easier for him travel inconspicuously across Europe.  Avner has been provided an unlimited sum of money in a Swiss bank account to buy any information and any ammunition which the team will need.  This is a very important assignment.  The Israeli government needs to be seen as avenging the Munich killings.

Given its subject material, Munich is already stirring up controversy.  Spielberg has tried to make the film neutral but both Palestinians and Israelis have claimed the film paints them in a negative light.  I guess Spielberg got it right then.  The overriding message is that an “eye for an eye” methodology will never bring these two enemies closer to peace.  If they continue to retaliating against the actions of each other, nothing will come of it.  The events of Munich should not have happened but the subsequent assassinations of the Black September leaders was equally pointless.

Munich looks great with Spielberg shooting scenes in France, Hungary, Malta and the United States.  When retelling such an important story, it is important to get the facts right.  The screenplay has been written by Tony Kushner (Angels In America) and much of his material has been extracted from George Jonas’s 1984 non-fiction book entitled Vengeance.  Jonas’s book has been discredited by some.  Whilst the nitty-gritty details may not be 100% accurate, the major facts are true.  These revenge attacks did happen.

My gripe with the film is its massive length which is close to three hours.  I felt that they were “flogging a dead horse” by dragging it out and continually repeating its key messages.  At the 2005 Brisbane International Film Festival, I saw a film called Paradise Now about two Palestinian suicide bombers who try to spread their message by killing themselves in a crowed area of Israel.  The film is now screening at the Schonell Theatre here in Brisbane and has been nominated for best foreign language film at the Golden Globes.  Paradise Now was just 90 minutes long and left a much greater emotional impact on me.  It really got under my skin and I felt for its characters.  Munich is more like a history documentary - the facts are interesting but the emotion isn’t the same.