I’ll be honest, searching for a DVD this week was not easy, but when I look back on past Oscar race’s and the film’s that get snubbed, “Munich” seems to always be close to the top. I would assume for many, this is the first time hearing of the Steven Spielberg underground gem. That’s ridiculous for a film as raw as this and one that really should be on your list to check out via Netflix or your retail outlet.
This story is loosely based around the 1972 Olympics when a Palestinian terrorist group called “Black September” kidnapped 11 Israeli athletes, taking them hostage and eventually killing them in cold blood. A good start to any story, but nothing compared to what happened next as revenge took center stage. In the most confidential of circumstances, Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir (Lynn Cohen) gathers the Israeli intelligence, also known as the Mossad, to put together a plan to avenge the 11 athletes’ who died. The operation, unknown to anyone outside this group, would take several squads of men and send them to take out the suspected targets involved in the great crisis. One squad was led by Avner (Eric Bana), a former Mossad agent and crafty hitman, who feels he must do this for his country. His four team members included Steve (Daniel Craig), the edgy trigger man, Robert (Mathieu Kassovitz) a toymaker who just happens to build bombs in his spare time, Carl (Ciaran Hinds), who discards the evidence after each kill and finally Hans (Hanns Zischier), who is the resident document forger for id’s and passports. But, once into the job, the pressure starts to take its toll on each of them as the list of targets would prove to be much more intense than first imagined leading to an emotional conclusion full of excitement and guilt.
It almost goes without saying that Spielberg doesn’t just cast anyone to be in his films. Each character is carefully thought out and run through and it’s no different here with “Munich.” Leading this cast was Eric Bana, who quietly has been one of the best actors in recent years. To do it so convincingly tells me he has what it takes and here Bana was able to use that natural ability to help balance his character’s emotional struggle between work and home with ease. Bana even rubs off on the rest of the cast, as each and every one of them was great in their individual roles. However, none of them were as much of a surprise as Geoffrey Rush who literary came in out of nowhere to star in this film. Rush, who played the edgy and often direct Ephraim, was great in his role as the middle-man between the squad and the Israeli “new intelligence.” But, make no mistake about it, this film was Bana’s and without him and his extreme command of the screen, this film would have never made it past the opening sequence.
I’m not sure what’s more impressive, the fact that Steven Spielberg made an edgy and raw film like “Munich” or the fact he did it without anyone really knowing about it. Either way, this film was truly something to watch, much like “Schindler’s List” and “Saving Private Ryan” were, back in their day. And I think that must be said, because in between all of Spielberg’s “popcorn” flicks, lies films like “Munich.” Films that show his amazing talent as a director and storyteller, which we tend to forget given how long he has been around. Because if you set aside the emotional storyline to this film and just watch how Spielberg directs the action sequences, you start to see why he is one of the best; if not the best director Hollywood has ever seen. Some of the shots he took and close up’s with the blood shed were so real that you almost couldn’t believe it. And it’s that realism that drives this film’s story, so to combine it with the true unedited TV news reports from during those times was just brilliant. And although this film does run a bit longer than most, it’s all forgotten when your given such a work of genius overall.
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