Munich

I’m a regular movie watching fiend these days. Odd, given the beautiful weather these days, but after dark a girl has to entertain herself.

Last night, I watched Munich. I wasn’t sure about it when I decided to watch it, because I was concerned that it might be rather rah rah Israel, look at the poor oppressed victims, or that it might glorify the heinous act of terrorism committed by Black September in 1972. To my surprise, the film was very good, presenting a well balanced, although very sad, look. I thought it was compelling and interesting, and that most people could probably benefit from taking a gander.

For readers who have no idea what I am talking about, a Palestinian terrorist organization called Black September infiltrated the Munich Olympic Games in 1972, kidnapping and later killing 11 Israeli athletes. The action was widely condemned by much of the world, since the Olympics is supposed to be a time of peace and coming together, and speculation about some of the events surrounding it has run rampant over the years since 1972.

One widely believed theory holds that the State of Israel, spearheaded by Prime Minister Golda Meir, ordered Mossad, the state intelligence agency, to take revenge on the people who organized the Munich attacks. Certainly a large number of Palestinians and Arabs were killed across Europe, along with innocent bystanders, in the years following the Munich attacks. Evidence suggests that this theory is probably true, although Israel will probably never fully cop to it.

Munich dramatized these events, and did it in a way that I thought was rather good. The movie opens with the infiltration of the Olympic Village, where we watch unsuspecting American athletes helping the Black September members break in. A chaotic scene in the Israeli housing follows, showing the events as they unfolded, and intercutting what looks like actual news footage from the event.

Then, we are introduced to the primary character, the Mossad employee detailed to lead the team of assassins in Europe. He is separated from Mossad, so that Israel can claim that it is not involved, and assigned a team of men to assist him. The movie follows with the assassinations, one by one, and the tension and uncertainty that accompanied them.

One thing the movie certainly does not glorify is being an assassin. The men on the team are desperate, hunted, sad individuals who begin to question the righteousness of their actions as the film proceeds. The team leader turns deeply paranoid as his team members are cut down one by one around him, and his life and sanity are slowly utterly destroyed. What price revenge?

The film remains fairly neutral on whether or not Israel has a right to exist, although it does suggest both that Black September acted wrongly, and that the assassinations may have targeted innocent people. It manages to remain fairly balanced, though, overall, letting the reader decide after weighing the available evidence. In my opinion, this was probably the most excellent and well done part of the film, and I’m sure extremists on one side or the other reacted unfavorably to the film as a result.

I’d recommend it. It is an excellent film: powerful, intense, and thought provoking. Who knew that I could say such a thing of Steven Spielberg, who clearly has some war and Holocaust issues to work through.

[Munich]