21 Hours at Munich
WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
On September 5, 1972, at the start of the 1972 Olympics games, a group of Arab terrorists known as Black September took eleven Israeli athletes hostage—an act that ended in a tragedy that was watched by the entire world.
IS IT A GOOD MOVIE?
For a 1976 TV movie, 21 HOURS AT MUNICH is a solid, if not somewhat dramatized account of the infamous terrorist attack. It offers a straightforward and easy-to-follow narrative of the events that took place (which is good if you’re like me and too young to be familiar with this oft-overlooked part of history). The acting is thankfully above your average television schlock, particularly from William “Sunset Blvd.” Holden and the (obviously not Arab) Franco Nero. Overall, the nature of the attack lends itself to some interesting cinematic discussion, with lots of political, religious, and ethical quandaries thrown in, made even more fascinating by the fact that it’s based on a true story.
While 21 HOURS AT MUNICH does a good job depicting the event on a surface level, it grossly oversimplifies and candy coats the politics of the ordeal, and treats the history of turmoil between Palestine and Israel too bluntly. A situation like this, as horrific as it may be, deserves a more complex treatment then just lumping everyone into stereotypes of good and bad guys. (For something that still affects international relations to this day, you think they’d be able to come up with a film that's more than just your typical hostage thriller.) The movie isn’t helped in this aspect by a truly lackluster script, with a repetitive “Let’s stall the bad guy over and over again” structure and some characters and dialogue that I truly hope were exaggerated for dramatic effect.
You know you’re in trouble when one of the first lines in the film is a guy turning to his friend and yelling “Arabs with guns! Get out, buddy!”
If your idea of good special features is a Preview for HOTEL RWANDA, then you, my friend, are in luck.
Of course this release is a shameless cash-in on Steven Spielberg’s MUNICH; however, the Beard’s new film depicts the aftermath of these tragic events and not the actual terrorist attack itself. So if you’re interested, 21 HOURS AT MUNICH might be a nice companion piece to check out before seeing that film. (Although, unless you’re a history buff, or director William A. Graham’s mother, it’s still a rental at best.)