Spielberg’s Best Film in 12 Years

by Alan Rapp on December 23, 2005

in Movie Reviews 

  • Title: Munich
  • IMDB: link

munich-posterStephen Spielberg‘s Munich is a personal story that is deeply moving and emotionally challenging to the viewer.  Hard questions are asked about the nature of revenge, assassination, and the right of a people to protect themselves through any means necessary.  Not since Schindler’s List has Spielberg taken on such a momentous undertaking that produced such extraordinary results.  This is his best film in over a decade and, it can be argued, the best film of his entire career.  In Munich Spielberg becomes the storyteller of a very personal story of pain, loss, vengeance, betrayal, murder, and death.  Munich is tremendous filmmaking and one of the best movies of the year.

The film begins with the abduction and murder of eleven Israeli athletes at the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich.  Munich tells the story of the fallout of this tragedy as Avner (Eric Bana), a Mossad officer and son of a hero, is chosen by the Israeli Prime Minister (Lynn Cohen) to lead a team and hunt down and kill all 11 of the terrorists responsible.  Avner accept the assignment and leaves his pregnant wife; he travels to Europe with his team to track down and assassinate the members of Black September.

Avner’s team includes bomb expert Robert (Mathieu Kassovitz), document forger Hans (Hanns Zischler), cleanup man Carl (Ciarán Hinds), and solder Steve (Daniel Craig).  The team struggles though obstacles to do their duty and fulfill their assignments and finds the cost to themselves becomes higher with each assassination.

Munich is a deeply personal story about the horror of terrorism and raises ethical questions about the morality of fighting fire with fire and the difference between justice and vengeance.  Is becoming a monster too high a price to pay to fight the monsters of the world?  Avner and his men each lose something in battling those responsible for the terrorist action in Munich.

From Bana’s leading role to the extra with no lines on screen for only seconds the movie’s cast is nothing short of awesome.  Geoffrey Rush comes through with yet another strong performance as the group’s unofficial case officer and only tie to the government.  Lynn Cohen gives a strength and determination to her role as Prime Minister Golda Meir.  Gila Almagor is superb in a small role as Avner’s mother and the widow of an Israeli hero; of those outside the mission she understands what Avner is doing best and why.  And Israeli actress Ayelet Zorer provides just the right mix of strength and fear in the role of Avner’s wife.

Rounding out the cast are Michael Lonsdale and Mathieu Amalric who are part of a shadowy French family that provides the names and locations to of the terrorists for a fee.  The odd father-son relationship that develops between Lonsdale and Bana’s characters is just one of many carefully crafted relationships in the movie.

Spielberg doesn’t tread lightly here.  These men go after assassins and in turn become assassins themselves.  Spielberg spends as much time on the workings of the “hits” as to the effects of each member of Avner’s team.  Although the team starts out inexperienced in such matters they learn quickly and as each murder gets them closer to their goal each of them is affected in different ways.  There is a price for every decision made in the film and each act brings consequences both great and small.

At times violent and emotionally charged the film provides a unique look at a specific period in history, the effects of which continue today, and is the type of film that needs to be seen, discussed, debated, and appreciated.

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