Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Munich Review

Munich is only understated when called an important film. This is not a movie and possesses little in the Hollywood term of entertainment value. By entertainment value I stress that it is not escapist. In fact, it is the most difficult movie to watch, and that is not hyperbole.

Previous Spielberg engagements dealing with World War Two and the human drama that unfolded in the time of war - Schindler's List and Saving Private Ryan - certainly had violent moments. But, in those great films the violence was bracketed by spaces of calm. Violence occurred like a crescendo and violence was typically a means to an end, an act committed with potential regret rarely visible except as a reaction. This is where Munich functions differently.

For nearly three hours the audience is gripped by the dilemma of morality. The main character, Avner, played by Eric Bana, is presented with the opportunity to avenge the deaths of 11 Israeli Olympic Athletes by assassinating the Palestinian men suspected of organizing the operation. With each instance of assassination, as the five Mossad mercenaries come face to face with their targets and interact with them, a realization occurs questioning the justification of the assassination about to take place. Most often this realization is expressed through the facial expression and hesitation of the assassin. At times the realization is recognized by the person or persons to be assassinated, the first instance in Rome when the suspected Palestinian stretches out his arm to calm and potentially prevent his assassination from taking place.

The history of Israeli and Palestinian conflict is long and complex, and is certainly not covered in this film. What is covered in this film is the higher morality: the cost of revenge. This is punctuated by a closing shot on the Twin Towers. The lingering shot on the resurrected buildings serve as a reminder that the conflicts of the past are not dissimilar from the conflicts of the present, and that more appropriate measures are necessary to find resolution.

As the Chinese saying goes, "Before you set out on revenge, you first dig two graves."'

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