Today! Because there is no peace at the end of this –
Directed by Steven Spielberg (x3)
Starring Eric Bana, Ciaran Hinds (x2), Daniel Craig, Geoffrey Rush, Mathieu Kassovitz, Hanns Zischler, Ayelet Zurer, Michael Lonsdale, Mathieu Amalric, Lynn Cohen
A great movie almost completely undone in audience’s minds by the bizarre choices in the finale, Munich at first glance appears to be a meditation on hate in the world, and the lengths good people go to in efforts to provide security and peace to their nation. But in reality, it is a straightforward action yarn, a vengeance thriller unlike pretty much any other, and a true story (-ish) to boot. And yes, it ends with the most awkward sex scene ever filmed.
Golda Meir and Israeli leadership put into effect an assassination plan against the surviving masterminds of Black September, responsible for the massacre of Jewish athletes at the ’72 Olympics in Munich. And while it is clearly a stressful, horrible job for those tasked to carry it out, they do so with righteous fury – until things stop going as planned. In reality, there was a lot more collateral damage than what is depicted in the film, including some murders of entirely innocent people, but much of the explanation for these omissions is couched in the fact that the team itself is a fictional composite of a wider group. This, naturally, opened the movie up for vast criticism, from pro-Israeli groups, but also pro-Palestine groups, and groups saying the film didn’t take enough of a stance either way. It is tricky business, tackling middle east politics, even in a film with as well-defined a villain as this one has.
Okay, so, if you can put that aside – the Munich massacre as depicted in the film is purportedly very accurate, as are the majority of the assassination plots devised for the Black September officials. Spiritually, then, I never had a serious problem with this movie – but I am very much viewing it as a movie, not a historical document, and can understand how those with a greater personal stake in this conflict could be rankled by the liberties taken. It’s still an incredibly taut, nerve jangling thriller skirting the corners of what is morally right when involved in an undeclared, guerrilla terrorist war.
And then it ends, and okay, I don’t have as much of a problem with the ending as some people, but I do think when the lasting image from the film is Eric Bana’s emotional, self-destructive, slow motion coital meltdown, some incorrect decisions were probably made. Famously, the whole movie was shot and edited and released in a six month window, so let’s blame that, huh? So much time is spent on the glorious vengeance and wonderful performances that maybe they just ran out of time to take that sex scene through the editor’s bay one more time. But again, I’m kind of okay with it. I get what it’s trying to say. But ask someone if they’ve seen this movie, and half of them will reference this moment, not, say, the Best Bloody Milky Lobby Decoration, a pretty amazing visual outcome of one of the murders.
Despite the controversies, Munich was still well acclaimed in its day, picking up five Oscar nods for Best Picture, Director, Screenplay, Editing, and Score – a 45th nod for the world’s greatest living composer, John Williams (who’s up to 51, as of this writing – coming for you, Walt Disney!). It also had a famous extended shoutout in Knocked Up –
Lord Spielberg can place the Three-Timer director’s statue next to all those Oscars, having previously helmed #294 1941 and a great segment from #331 Twilight Zone: the Movie on this list, to become the fifth member of the club. I know you’re worried – is this the end for Spielberg on this list? Fear not! March 2020 will be here in no time! Also, Ciaran Hinds joins the Two-Timers acting wing, following his work in #380 There Will Be Blood. Spotlight!