a critiQal film review Munich (2005)

Plot: In retaliation for the 1972 murders of 11 Israeli Olympic athletes in Munich, a secret Israeli squad, led by Avner (Bana), is sent to assassinate 11 Palestinians believed to be behind the attack.

667 words (Est. Reading Time 3m 20s)
  • ...Spielberg just doesn't have the same passion for this film, and it shows.

Having not been born yet when the 1972 Olympic Massacre took place, I didn’t know much about the events that inspired Munich before I watched it. However, “directed by Steven Spielberg” caught my eye, so I knew I was going to have to check it out.

I also wanted to see if Eric Bana, who finally impressed me in Troy (2004), could keep going on his newfound strong streak, or if he was going to revert back to his abysmal performance in Hulk (2003). Add to that I wanted to see if the new James Bond, Daniel Craig, could act, and I was looking forward, albeit somewhat apprehensively, to seeing this film when it was finally delivered by Blockbuster®.

Would Munich be worthy of all it’s praise recently? Or is attaching the name Steven Spielberg enough to give a film a good rating?

Eric Bana seems to enjoy playing tortured roles. Whether he’s struggling to hide the monster inside (literally, in Hulk (2003)) or battling his conflicting emotions (Troy (2004)), he seems to get picked for the tortured role bit quite a lot. It does seem that Bana has learned from past mistakes, and plays his character very well. Maybe he just needs to dirty himself up a little to really get into character (anyone else remember the squeaky clean Bana in Hulk (2003)?) – or maybe he’s just finally found something he could really sink his teeth into.

Despite a decent performance by Bana, however, the viewer never really connects to him, as the other characters do little to communicate with the audience at all – Daniel Craig prominently among them. If Munich is the best that Craig can do, the Bond series is doomed. Very little acting skills, an ugly pock-marked appearance (which actually works for him here) and no presence in front of the camera whatsoever – that pretty much sums up Daniel Craig in Munich. In this film, he comes off as a mix of Vin Diesel’s brains and Billy Bob Thornton’s looks – a hideous combination that should never have been allowed to be cast as a leading man, much less in a Bond picture.

The rest of the characters tend to blend into the background of Munich, basically providing backdrops to frame scenes around. They contribute little to the overall film, and the viewer will probably get them confused often during the course of the film.

The real high point of Munich is the debate it is sure to spark about how countries deal with terrorists. Was Israel right in sending an assassination squad? Did they have another course of action?

These questions are especially noteworthy as we in the US fight a war against terrorism in Afghanistan and other countries across the globe. Are we stooping to the terrorists’ level – and what are we accomplishing? What if we find Bin Laden and kill him – will that end terrorism in the US? Sadly, that answer is no. It seems, as Munich so aptly points out, that terrorism is like the mythical Hydra – cut off one head, and two will grow to take it’s place. So how do you combat something like that?

Despite the tragic events it’s based on, Munich loses something in the translation to the big screen. With the exception of Bana, the film never really tries to connect with the viewer. Maybe because in trying not to take one side or the other, Spielberg doesn’t have as clear of a vision as he did for Schindler’s List (1993), for example. A lot of Spielberg’s soul went into making that film, and that passion practically bled through the screen, so the impact on the viewer was much greater. With Munich, there isn’t the same passion, and it’s noticeable from the very beginning.

While Munich is a disappointing effort from Spielberg, it does give Bana a chance to hone his acting skills just a bit more, hopefully in preparation for roles yet to come that will impress us all.

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