Review Date: February 14, 2006
Director: Steven Spielberg
Writer: Tony Kushner, Eric Roth
Producers: Kathleen Kennedy, Steven Spielberg, Colin Wilson, Barry Mendel
Eric Bana as Avner
Daniel Craig as Steve
Geoffrey Rush as Ephraim
Inspired by real-life events, this film takes place after the Munich Olympics tragedy of 1972, during which Arab terrorists stormed the Israeli athletes’ compound, and ultimately ended up killing all 11 members of their team. Israel, pissed at the ‘rabs who perpetrated these heinous crimes, decides to set up a “death squad”, if you will, to travel the world and whack out all people who they believe were behind the terrorist killings. Thrills, vengeance and moral dilemmas ensue…
This was a great movie in a plentitude of manners, but at the end of the day, at the end of the film and its message, I simply didn’t find myself emotionally entangled in the lives and cares of the people leading the show, and when a film is trying to make a point as hard as this one, I think that’s pretty important. Does that mean that the movie didn’t complete its mission? Well, according to me, it didn’t fully, but many others have seen and adored the picture, so who knows…maybe it’s just a matter of opinion, personality or mood when you see the movie. That said, there are many things about the film that I can’t dismiss, including the impressive direction by Spielberg (some great tension-filled scenes), the solid acting across the board (how and why Eric Bana has been ignored by most every end-of-year award show is beyond me!) and even its important message about vengeance, guilt, loyalty and love of family/love of country. If anything, I believe the film’s final half hour was its strongest with many of the lead players beginning to question their own actions, beliefs, motives and morals, while the film’s first two-thirds plays more like a straight-forward revenge thriller. I was actually waiting for the movie to get more involved in the characters’ minds, and wasn’t disappointed with Bana’s grappling in the end, although like I mentioned earlier, his grappling intrigued me…but didn’t grab me emotionally, which I really wanted. The film is also filled with plenty of memorable scenes and lines (“Don’t forget the receipts”), an excellent sense of foreboding and plenty of intriguing political switcheroos, many of which the members of the team begin to question after a while, just like the audience.
I was personally a little disappointed in the lack of time spent on screen by Daniel Craig (you know, the next James Bond), especially since I didn’t even realize what his character was doing as part of the team until the film’s final half hour or so – before then, he was just sitting around a lot. I also didn’t appreciate the film’s focus on bombs, not because I have anything against the act of bombing terrorists per se, but because it simply started to get on my nerves as the main strategy of these people, particularly with the inherent problems that seemed to come with it. I think the film’s mid-section could also have been compacted a little, as the hits against the “black list” members started to feel redundant after a while—they could have squeezed a couple of them into colorful montages and added more character introspection, if you ask me. That said, the hits were all pretty unique, Bana was awesome throughout, especially in his more private moments with his family and self, the ending was predictable, but still poignant enough to make one re-think the logic of revenge, an “eye for an eye” and all that jazz, and you gotta give the film points for all of its technical merits including cinematography, sound, editing and direction, all of which helped give the picture a resoundingly more authentic look and feel – always important in films “inspired” or “based” on true events. Which reminds me…all of the flashbacks to the actual Munich tragedy were well-crafted and worked. All in all, a great movie with an excellent showing by Bana, that dares to ask important questions about the ongoing issues in the Middle East, as well as the ongoing battles between home countries, terrorist organizations and/or freedom fighters. Whose side are you on? Let’s talk.
(c) 2017 Berge Garabedian