More noise than signal


This review has been ‘repurposed’ from my other site,

If there’s one group of people you really don’t want to piss off, it’s Mossad, probably the most respected and most ruthless secret service in the world. That’s exactly what Palestinian terrorist organisation Black September do during the 1972 Munich Olympics, taking eleven Israeli athletes hostage, torturing them and eventually killing them during a botched takedown operation. In an officially unofficial capacity, Avner (Eric Bana) is charged with finding eleven men thought responsible for planning the operation and performing a spot of ‘vitality adjustment’.

There’s surprisingly little, to someone whose knowledge of Mossad black ops is fittingly slight, intelligence gathering going on by Avner’s men. All of the work tracking down their targets seems to be outsourced to French outfit running a sort of one-stop assassination supply shop, our lads carrying out the final wet work through the artistic medium of ‘bomb’.

Mentioning anything vaguely political set in this part of the world, and this can of worms in particular, is like attacking a hornet’s hive, or entering a viper’s nest, or some other animal based simile, especially given Hamas’ recent victory in the Palestinian election. Tensions have rarely been higher in the region and zealots on both sides of the argument have been swift to rail against this film, in doing so missing the crucial, blatantly obvious point – the continual cycle of recurring atrocity-reprisal-reprisal-reprisal is ‘misguided’ on both camp’s parts, although it may be appropriate to replace ‘misguided’ with something stronger.

Munich, what remains of the rational part of my mind insists on recognising, has all of the constituent components of a good film. Certainly it’s Spielberg’s most Important film of this side of 2000, stuffed full of the sort of Importance that demands the very word be capitalised. Why, then, it’s such a bloody chore to watch it is a question I’ve struggled with for a few days now. This film isn’t about the thrill of the hunt, indeed there is no thrill of the hunt. Much of the movie seems to consist of traipsing down desolate streets and Bana staring mournfully into the middle distance. It’s not a dry, impartial documentary, but at the same time it’s not exactly big on the whole justification and questioning thing.

Munich winds up striving so hard to avoid editorialising and saying anything too controversial that it winds up saying close to nothing at all, and certainly nothing that isn’t astonishingly obvious. Killing is Bad? Cheers, Steveo, but had reached that one under my own steam, ta. Granted, you could say much the same things about Schindler’s list or Saving Private Ryan, but at least if you tire of the social conscious on display in those films you’ve got sympathetic leads to root for, rather than, say, assassins callously striking names off a list, no matter how generally accomplished all of the lead’s turns are.

What did I like about Munich? Spielberg channels some of the experience of Saving Private Ryan with aplomb; there’s some nasty gunshot woundage on display including the ‘pink mist’ that Jarhead spoke of so longingly. Daniel Craig has scary eyes. Bana’s hair is fittingly retro. There’s the usual hyperslick Spielbergian dolly shots, the opening scenes of the initial Munich hostage scenario as covered by the world’s attendant media a particular strong point. Spielberg’s reined in the schmaltz, for the most part. It isn’t War of the Worlds.

What didn’t I like about Munich? It goes on forever. It doesn’t really say an awful lot by itself, but I suppose it’s better that we make up our own minds about its themes anyway. That Middle Eastern female vocal caterwauling motif that every film in 2004 had makes an unwelcome return.

As usual, I fail to really understand why Munich didn’t really gel for me. There’s little actively wrong with it, and I feel slightly guilty for not liking it more than I can actually justify. Still, I’m well past the age of pretending to like something to fit in with the cool kids, and as such I calls it likes I sees it. Thank you, drive through.