MUNICH, directed by Steven Spielberg in 2005, was nominated for 5 Oscars: Best Picture, Director, Screenplay, Film Editing and Music Score. Garnering mostly laudatory reviews and generating no little controversy, the 163-minute, $70,000,000 adult-minded thriller about a team of Israeli assassins hunting down terrorists didn’t fare too well by revenue, with a global take of $130,359,000, and the US market only accounting for just a little over a third of it. Put together with great skill, it’s an impressive movie, but as far as those pesky harpies Fact v. Fiction go it remains yet another casualty of the bottomless moral morass in the Middle East, a whirlpool of lies and misery that may yet drag all of us down the historical drain.
After 11 Israeli athletes are slaughtered by Palestinian terrorists at the 1972 Olympics, the Israel’s government (led by Golda Meir) and its crack Mossad agency send a five-man team after the Black September group responsible. As stealthy missions are carried out, and the body count rises, so does the psychological toll on the avengers. What–exactly, is the end game?
Written by Tony Kushner and Eric Roth, based mostly off the 1984 book by George Jonas, “Vengeance: The True Story Of An Israeli Counter-Terrorist Team”, with a good deal of dramatic improvising by the scenarists, it’s effective as storytelling, but its veracity insofar as being accurate drew unfriendly fire from several quarters. *
Scripting truths or snares to the side, Spielberg’s direction of the action sequences is customarily top-notch, and his usual array of collaborative talent is on board and on-target: Janusz Kaminski for cinematography, Michael Kahn on editing, John Williams providing tense scoring. The well-delineated team of disparate types are excellently played by Eric Bana (on the heels of his bravura Hector in Troy), Daniel Craig, Ciarán Hinds, Mathieu Kassovitz and Hanns Zischler, with faultless backup from a large supporting cast. Most of the filming was done in Hungary and on Malta, with some linking sequences shot in Paris and New York City.
On deck: Geoffrey Rush (blithely ruthless Mossad overseer), Michael Lonsdale (play-every-side French liaison to anyone who pays), Matthieu Amalric (his dead-to-caring son), Aselet Zurer (Bana’s isolated wife), Gila Almagor (his un-fooled mother), Marie-Josée Croze (the sexy Dutch treat with a bite), Yvan Attal, Igal Naor, Meret Becker, Lynn Cohen, Valeria Bruni Tedeschi.
* Author Jonas (who died in 2016) was unhappy with the scripting. The screenplay did leave out many messy details, invented others and gives the impression that the squad acted alone (there were several). Because Spielberg dared to play fairly fair about the no-win cycle of violence and its ramifications, the right-wing Israeli government was furious (how dare you suggest there’s another side to the story!) and handy-dandy accusations of anti-Semitism were hurled. That was no mean feat of chutzpah, considering the lineage of the director, screenwriters and much of the production team. Commandment 11: thou shalt NEVER-EVER question Israel, or even begin to hint at a question (it’s in The Constitution, or will be). Censorship–a great way to prove you’re on the high ground.
From other quarters Jonas (who was Jewish) was revealed/portrayed/painted/smeared as a faker who used a single, much-discredited source for his book. Who knew, who knows? Individual complaints and arguments to the side, suffice to say one can safely take anything coming from any (and every) government and their mouthpiece media shills involved in the theft, mayhem and profit in and from the Middle East to have as much validity as 2,000 year-old fairy tales. Good movie; just take it with a pillar of salt.