At the 1972 Munich Olympics, Palestinian terrorists kidnapped members of the Israeli Olympic delegation, ultimately killing all of them. Some of the terrorists were captured, then later released by the German government when another Palestinian group hijacked a German plane to use as a bargaining chip. Meanwhile, several of the men thought responsible for planning and supporting the Munich attack were free, some of them living openly in various European countries. Disgusted by this state of affairs, the Israeli government secretly enlisted Mossad agents for a protracted program of vengeance, hunting down and killing the men behind the attack. “Munich” is the fictionalized story of those men and their fraught search for justice.
At least that’s my take. Others would say “Munich” is a story about the futility of revenge, or about the self-destructive nature of meeting violence with violence. Some might say it is about the duplicity of governments (one terrorist supposedly receives money and protection from the CIA.) I suppose it is about all of those things.
The thing about “Munich” is that it is exactly what I originally thought it would be. In 2005, I didn’t see it, because it seemed like it would be a downer. I figured a movie that got all those award nominations could never be simplistic enough to make a satisfying revenge movie. I figured it must be dark, slow, complex, and unsatisfying (and I was right.) Then I saw the characters in the movie “Knocked Up” talking about how badass “Munich” made Jews look, and I figured maybe I should give it a chance.
“Munich” does NOT make these guys look like badasses. It does make Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir look pretty tough, but agent Avner (Eric Bana) and his team are the worst assassins EVER! After shooting their first target, they inexplicably switch to using bombs, and they are terrible at it. I don’t know if this is actually how it happened, but in any event, I found it frustrating to watch.
If “Munich” is less-than-satisfying to watch, I suppose that is director Steven Spielberg’s intent. He is trying to show that violence, which is a simple solution, is not ultimately effective at solving complex problems. Fair enough. I just feel that there is a taut thriller in there somewhere, and I’m disappointed I didn’t get to see it.
3 stars out of 5