Steven Spielberg's Munich, like his earlier The Color Purple and Schinder's List, shows what an extraordinary filmmaker he is. It makes me almost want to wish he'd give up the Hollywood Blockbuster route and only do serious films, but I would suppose that'd never do. Serious films don't make money and there's money spent on Munich to make it look oh-so-real. Plus, Spielberg's serious films are wrenching experiences to watch -- they've got to be slit-your-wrists soul searching to make.
Tread Softly Lest You Uncover The Truth
The Munich in question is the Munich of the 1972 Summer Olympics, where a team of Palestinians from the heretofore unknown group Black September broke in and took eleven hostages from the tiny Israeli Olympic team. Though they show the event in flashback, using a mix of recreation, ABC and other network TV coverage -- both alone and shown on TVs with various audiences -- if you aren't familiar with the rudimentary basics of the story, you may be left confused. We are of a generation old enough to have "lived" through its unfolding on live TV and remember when Jim McKay and Howard Cosell became unlikely news witnesses to a day when the world changed.
And yet this movie is about the response to Munich, so where in the hands of a lesser filmmaker this movie would dwell on the terrorist act, Spielberg spreads it out, using it in doses to reminding us of where this all started while events are deteriorating about them. And bringing in the fateful end in the midst of the most unlikely of scenes, to great effect.
A Secret Outrage
Events are finally put in motion in a terrific pair of scenes with then Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meier.(sp??) It's precisely what is not being said in the second scene which is important -- and typical of the powerful yet subtle philosophizing which will lose many people.
Now This Is An Action Film
Ohmygosh. How many summer action films have you seen murder, mayhem, blood and explosions... only to yawn and say "No way"? There is a level of violence on the screen here that makes its R-rating a red flag for the faint of heart. This looks real and terrible in a way that I have rarely seen in cinema period.
This is a thinking man's film. And a love story, where love is defined in oh so many ways. Love between husband and wife, parents and child, of country, of ideals, of right and wrong. I had heard, and it was quite true, that Spielberg has shaded a rage of black and white into a series of grays which expose multiple points of view. This is not a Chuck Norris Delta Force shoot-em-up with the good-n-bad guys so polarized it makes your teeth hurt (and sucks your brains right out your eye sockets). This is about people who kill because they feel they have to.
The Last Shot
Like Titanic, Munich doesn't seem to know at first when or where to end. There are two or three fade outs which don't lead to credits. I wasn't too certain of this strategy at first, but Spielberg wanted to build up this uncertainty.
The final shot is left as a backdrop -- after a very long wait, several beats longer than one ordinarily might think sufficient -- as they inform you of some of the closing details. But there is a reason for that long shot. I debated about whether to go for the spoiler alert and do a cut-page here -- but I shan't. 'Nuff said.
Overall: A very powerful and very real film, whose resolution really comes, like real life, without really a resolution. Extraordinary and highly recommended.
The Previews shown before this movie were all over the place. One was for Mel Gibson's next epic -- this time it's about the Mayans or something. What was funny was the preview for a Harrison Ford flick, Firewall, about a bank programmer being blackmailed by kidnappers to do their bidding, but Ford turns the tables on them to get his family back. We looked at each other and said, we've seen this movie, with Mel Gibson.
Most of the rest of the previews were forgettable, except we got to see the early cuts of all the big explosions in Tom Cruise's MI:III. It most definitely will look cheesy up against Munich.