Munich (2005)

Rating: D

Dir: Steven Spielberg
Star: Eric Bana, Daniel Craig, Ciarán Hinds, Geoffrey Rush

This may be a first for Spielberg in that he has actually made a film that is mind-numbingly dull. Admittedly, it’s perhaps not entirely his fault that we saw Sword of Gideon, based on the same book, just a few months ago. But that renders this film almost entirely redundant, since this version brings very little new to the material. I’m tempted just to refer readers to our earlier review for a synopsis, but that’d be too lazy. So: after the 1972 Munich Olympics massacre, Israel sent out a team to track down and kill the eleven top members of Black September who they believe had a hand in planning the attack.  The results were ambivalent at best: sure, some terrorists died, but they were inevitably replaced.

Was anything significant achieved, or did this bring the state down to the level of those who had attacked it? There’s certainly plenty of scope for thought here, but Spielberg never does much more than scratch the surface. The closest he comes to capturing the moral ambiguity is when an administrative cock-up (which may be deliberate) puts them in the same apartment as the enemy. There’s a brief discussion there which raises the issues at the heart of the film, but a struggle over what channel the radio should be tuned to, probably addresses these dilemmas a lot more effectively, and also illustrates how compromise is always possible.

It doesn’t help that Bana is not so much bland as entirely colourless, bringing nothing to the central character. The only weight the film has comes from current events, which have placed many more countries (the US, the UK, Spain, etc.) in Israel’s shoes. I suppose if you’ve not seen Gideon – and going by some of the fawning reviews, it appears most critics haven’t – this could seem worthwhile. However, to those of us who have, this seems like lazy, unimaginative work at best.