Spielberg's "Munich" not bad if you don't expect much
People who know me well will find this hard to believe, but I recently went to another movie, my third is less than three months.
I won't say it's getting to be a habit, more like a bizarre coincidence that three movies drawing my interest would be released in such a short time. But I'm not the only one who was drawn to "Munich," directed by Stephen Spielberg.
It's a hot topic, and there's been no shortage of writing on Spielberg's latest project, an allegedly historical account of the Israel's response to an attack on Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics by Palestinian terrorists. I say allegedly because the story outlined in "Munich" is speculative. In other words, Spielberg made it up, which he acknowledges with the pre-movie announcement that the film is based on actual events.
The actual events would be, of course, the attack and Israel's subsequent pursuit of the terrorists, whom they marked for death. Those things really did happen, but everything else in "Munich" is the result of a moviemaker's imagination and understandably so. After all, the Israelis didn't exactly issue a press release to explain how they did it every time they knocked off one of their targets.
At any rate, "Munich" not a bad movie. The acting is very good, and there is tension that build as the hounds pursue their quarry one by one in various cities across Europe. It's a darn interesting story, mostly.
The movie is too long (about two hours and 40 minutes), and the end is particularly disappointing as it features the hand-wringing by members of the Israeli hit team that has drawn so much criticism. But as a film, it's well done. And as a political statement, it's also worth seeing, if only to help understand what all the fuss is about.
The movie's most vocal critics blame Spielberg for what they say is the moral equivalence he gives to the terrorists and the Israelis and the endless soul-searching about how violence only begets violence. It's as if, the critics claim, Spielberg is blaming Israel for perpetuating violating by responding to terrorists' attacks on civilians, as if somehow it would stop if Israel didn't respond.
Well, I don't know if his point is that blunt. Certainly, there is a lot of whining about how killing one terrorist won't end the need to kill another terrorist. But what else is new? Winning one battle doesn't necessarily mean there won't be another to fight. The goal is to win the war, which generally consists of many battles.
That's what makes the whole business so awful, and Spielberg's film certainly captures that reality. Indeed, it's not beyond the realm of possibility that individual soldiers in this deadly game pay a steep psychological price, as the movie portrays, for doing what they regard as their duty.
All this talk about "Munich," whether positive or negative, is just what the doctor ordered to sell tickets. And the pseudo-historical nature of the film and its social message certainly has the critics prattling on endlessly in an effort to instill some importance into their vacuous pastimes, so much so that "Munich" already has made a number of Top 10 lists for movies of the year.
That's faint praise in my view. But it's praise nonetheless, and it perfectly echoes my opinion of "Munich." It's pretty good for what it is, which isn't much.