A man once said, “If you want peace, prepare for war”, but it’s without a doubt, no one ever retorted with “At what price?” Often times, war is rationalized by those who continue it and those who support it. Collateral Damage, Friendly Fire, and the like are terms used to further downplay the futility of war. I am not a pacifist by any definition of the word. I do not adhere to the mindset of such an ideal, but when it applies to “Munich” and the films ultimate pacifist message, I tend to agree with him and Kushner. “Munich” has been one of the most controversial films of 2005, and in the long run, of all time, and will have you stepping back to re-think not only the 1972 Munich tragedy, but war in general. Spielberg and Kushner through the events of 1972 use that as a template to express their feelings toward the modern world at war. Do the ends justify the means? Does going after terrorists end the war, or does it subject us to even more war?
Many people won’t like the message Spielberg communicates, but I can guarantee you that it will spark debate, and anything that’s as provocative as this can’t be all that bad. Spielberg (who returns to disturbing realism he tackled in “Saving Private Ryan” and “Schindler’s List”), as a puppet master, sits behind the camera and never takes particular affiliation with any one party, yet simply lets the chips fall where they may and explores how war is scattered, endless, and ultimately futile. After the events of Munich in 1972 which leads to a startling and utterly frightening recreation by Spielberg–he puts the action on camera in synch with the actual footage on television. For example when one of the masked assailants opens the balcony window and walks out slowly, while he pans down to the footage–Golda Meir consults with her cabinet that by the cost of peace, they have to seek revenge. Thus they form a team of operatives who proceed to assassinate nine of the eleven people involved with this mission.
Spielberg, prefers to examine, through this mission, the effects and after effects of war on the lands that was has taken place on, and on its soldiers, regardless of how skilled they may be. Eric Bana gives the performance of his career as Avner, a special agent recruited by his government to gather with his group in Europe and assassinate Palestinian terrorists. Through this mission, Avner, a well defined character thanks to Bana’s sympathetic performance, manages to experience all sorts of conflict of conscience within this goal to finish the job, thus leading to results reminiscent of Coppola’s “The Conversation”. “Munich” is a tense, gritty, and utterly dread filled drama with shades of chaos and impending doom amidst these men whom seek to do their jobs, and go home.
But Avner, while committing these missions, also views how these people were human as well, an allusion many of the audience that views the film will not agree with. Though many won’t agree with the angle that Spielberg sympathizes for all parties instead of simply focusing on the victims, it’s still a very daring move to commit such an act, even if you refuse to regard the Palestinians as human, and merely villains. But “Munich” even when humanizing the Palestinians with immense significance showing them with their family, is a beautiful and utterly disturbing parable pinpointing the endlessness of war, and our rationalization for committing it and acting out on it. But it also works in the facets of a thriller in which it focuses on these characters and their objectives, which Spielberg then uses his skill with. The scene with the girl and the bomb was incredibly reminiscent of the tense sequence in “Saboteur” with the young boy delivering the bomb along a bus.
With that simple homage, he keeps the audience watching by drawing out that small amount of suspense, with that he successfully takes a page from Hitchcock. “Munich” features the prerequisite excellent direction from Spielberg in which he flexes his usual flair for storytelling with masterful tension and storytelling brilliance that has thrilling plot twists thrown every other way to us. And then, with amazing foreshadowing, the last five minutes–which gave me literal chills up my spine and goose bumps–perfectly summed up what this film meant. War is eternal, the Palestinian war is eternal, and eventually our participation in war will spawn many innocent lives taken whom will forever be victims in a war that can not be stopped. With an excellent cast, and brilliant writing, “Munich” is an utter masterpiece.