Munich (2005)

(In theaters, January 2006) The disconnect between real-life and the movie-world is seldom as blatant as in the thriller genre, where reality seldom has anything to do with the feverish action-packed stories offered to us. Intelligence work, for instance, is more often a matter of statistical analysis than thrilling car chases, but how do you make desk work interesting? Sometimes, however, reality proves to be as exciting as fiction, and that’s the case here with this fictionalized account of one Israeli counter-terrorism operation following the 1972 Munich massacre. Director Steven Spielberg delivers a film with the look and feel of classic seventies thrillers, an uneasy mixture of the realistic and the luminous, taking place in a world recognizably our own. What’s more, Munich also borrows a little bit of seventies-era ambiguity in refusing to takes sides for or against the anti-terrorism assassinations. While Spielberg can’t escape a bit of over-the-top horror in depicting the initial terrorist assaults, the script also suggests that the quest for vengeance may be counterproductive. Good intentions, but they unfortunately lead straight to the film’s major flaws. While Munich stands on its own as a cautionary tale about the value of one’s personal and national morality, it overplays its hand during an overlong third act, using a hammer when a scalpel would have done just as well. It reaches a climax of sort during a wholly unnecessary sequence where lovemaking is interspersed with flashbacks to the Munich Massacre. Too much, too blunt –especially given how effective the film was in raising those very same issues in the previous two acts. Otherwise, there’s a lot to like in this film, from the acting (Craig Daniel even previews “the new James Bond”, and I’m reassured) to the often-unflinching violence. Truly a film that borrows well from a previous era, and may just set a good example for others.

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