Friday, January 11, 2008

Munich – a review

I enjoy thriller/action movies and Munich looked like it would be an interesting one. In some ways, it was much better than a typical action movie, and in other ways worse.

At the very outset, a Palestinian terrorist group kidnapped and killed 11 Israeli Olympians as the Olympics were beginning in Munich. The movie then tells of Israel hiring special agents and their efforts to hunt down Palestinians in vengeance.

The unfortunate thing about Munich is how graphic and violent it is. With the story of assassins and Israeli/Palestinian conflict, violence is not surprising, but in my opinion, they could have filmed just as effective a movie without as much detail. For this reason, I would have to strongly caution people who do not like graphic films. On the other hand, it does not trivialize death. And it also tries to show how traumatic and haunting these events are, even months later, to “hardened” men like assassins.

The wonderful and amazing thing about Munich is how philosophical it is. Unlike many thriller movies that have a good guy and bad guys and thus a black and white conflict, this film shows the complexity of human thought and motivation and the complexity of conflict. The characters are shown as family men, working men, men who care about relationships and life, men who find their new assignment distasteful though necessary.

The conflict is highly complex. Various characters throughout the movie question what they’re doing and why they’re doing it. Is it right to be assassinating these chosen men without proof of their involvement in Munich? Is it right to trust their employer? They’ve been told to kill only the specified Palestinians, but what happens when their own teammate is murdered? Is it okay to then kill that colleague’s murderer? What does it mean to be a Jew? Does it mean only that one is loyal to Israel? Or does it mean that one is righteous before God, obeying the Law more than the government?

Usually the end of a movie has definition and resolution, but Munich does not. The lead character is less sure of himself and his work than ever before in the movie. Through the course of his assignment, he had gradually become callous and vengeful. But as he saw violence only beget more violence, he questioned Israel’s methods and his own loyalty to them. We are left with questions and doubts rather than a feeling of success or determination. This is a refreshing, more accurate portrayal of a world that is indeed not black and white.

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