Munich - * * * *
Originally posted on 1/22/06
Sometimes I think there are three Steven Spielbergs out there. There's the Gritty director of Saving Private Ryan; the Sci-Fi director of Close Encounters, ET, and Minorty Roport;, and the Romantic director of Catch Me If You Can, Always, Hook, and The Terminal. Munich falls into the Gritty director category. And it's a masterpiece. One of his best.
To those who know me, It's no secret that Spielberg is one of my favorite directors. He's a master of visual storytelling. He works with some of the most talented people in Hollywood and abroad. Many of his films are classics. I'm not sure Munich will be a classic; but it comes close.
The story, based on the book "Vengeance : The True Story of an Israeli Counter-Terrorist Team" by George Jonas, is about the Israelis exacting revenge on PLO leaders in the aftermath of the 1972 Munich Olympic Games massacre. But it goes beyond a simple revenge plot. The story is really how revenge affects those who participate in it--especially those on the front lines. It's one thing to give the orders to go out and kill people; it's quite another thing to do the killing.
Eric Bana, who is best known for his potrayal of Bruce Banner in "Hulk (2003)" gives a star-making performance as Avner, the leader of the Israeli revenge team. Throughout the film, his innocence slips away until he is a paranoid specter of a man.
The entire film, set in the 70s, actually feels like it was made in the 70s. There were several times that I wondered if this was a lost Coppola film (like The Conversation) or even a Scorcese film (like Taxi Driver). I also though a lot about Day of the Jackal, an amazing cat-and-mouse thriller made in the 70s (not the more recent version with Richard Gere).
There are many great performances in the film, but in addition to Bana, Geoffry Rush gives an icy performance as Avner's handler. You're always left wondering if this guy is good or bad. And eventually, Avner wonders the same thing.
In the end, the theme of Munich is simple: two wrongs don't make a right. You kill our people, and we'll kill your people. And the cycle continues on and on into eternity, until someone comes to their senses.