Munich


Munich Information

Munich (2005) is a drama based on Operation Wrath of God, the Israeli government's secret retaliation against the Palestine Liberation Organization after the Munich massacre at the 1972 Summer Olympics. The film was produced and directed by Steven Spielberg and written by Tony Kushner and Eric Roth.

Based on the book Vengeance: The True Story of an Israeli Counter-Terrorist Team about Yuval Aviv, who claims to have been a Mossad agent, Munich follows a squad of assassins as they track down and kill alleged members of the group Black September, which kidnapped and murdered eleven Israeli athletes.

Shot in Malta, Budapest, Fürstenfeldbruck Air Base, Paris, and New York, Munich was a critical and commercial success. It garnered positive reviews and five Academy Awards nominations: Best Picture, Best Director (Spielberg), Best Adapted Screenplay (Kushner and Roth), Best Film Editing (Michael Kahn) and Best Original Score (John Williams). Its worldwide box office gross was $130,358,911.

Plot

Munich begins with a depiction of the events of the 1972 Munich Olympics and then cuts to the home of Prime Minister of Israel Golda Meir, where Avner Kaufman (Eric Bana), an Israeli-born Mossad agent of German-Jewish descent, is chosen to lead an assassination mission against 11 Palestinians allegedly involved in the massacre. To give the Israeli government plausible deniability and, at the direction of his handler Ephraim (Geoffrey Rush), Avner resigns from Mossad and operates with no official ties to Israel. His team includes Steve (Daniel Craig), a South African driver; Hans (Hanns Zischler), a document forger; Robert (Mathieu Kassovitz), a Belgian toy-maker trained in defusing explosives; and Carl (Ciarán Hinds), a former Israeli soldier who "cleans up" after the assassinations. They are given information by a shadowy French informant, Louis (Mathieu Amalric).

In Rome, the team shoots and kills Abdel Wael Zwaiter, who is broke and living as a poet. In Paris, they detonate a bomb in the home of Mahmoud Hamshari; in Cyprus, they bomb the hotel room of Hussein Al Bashir (Hussein Abd Al Chir). With Israel Defense Forces (IDF) commandos, they pursue three Palestinians to Beirut--Muhammad Youssef al-Najjar (Abu Youssef); Kamal Adwan; and Kamal Nasser, a Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) spokesman--penetrating the Palestinians' guarded compound and killing all three.

Between hits, the often-reluctant assassins argue about the morality and logistics of their mission (who supplies them? who employs them?), expressing fear about their individual lack of experience, as well as ambivalence about implicating innocent bystanders. Avner makes a brief visit to his wife, who has given birth to their first baby. In Athens, he has a heartfelt conversation with a PLO member who is sharing the same safe house; he later sees this man killed during a hit on a target named Zaiad Muchasi.

The squad moves to London to track down Ali Hassan Salameh, who orchestrated the Munich Massacre, but their assassination attempt is interrupted by several drunken Americans. It is implied that these are agents of the CIA, which, according to Louis, protects and funds Salameh in exchange for his promise not to attack US diplomats. Meanwhile, attempts are made on the assassins themselves. Carl is killed by "Jeanette," an independent Dutch contract killer, whom the team pursues to the Netherlands, shooting her in revenge. Hans is found stabbed to death on a park bench, while Robert is killed by an explosion in his workshop. Avner and Steve finally locate Salameh in Spain, but again their assassination attempt is thwarted, this time by Salameh's armed guards.

A disillusioned Avner flies to Israel, where he is unhappy to be hailed as a hero by two young soldiers, and then to his new home in Brooklyn, where he suffers post-traumatic stress. He is thrown out of the Israeli consulate after storming in to demand that Mossad leave his wife and child alone. In the final scene, Ephraim comes to ask Avner to return to Israel and Mossad. Ephraim admits that there was no evidence directly linking any of the targets to the Munich massacre, and Avner decries the entire operation. A final intertitle notes that 9 of the 11 original targets were eventually assassinated, including Salameh in 1979.

Cast

  • Eric Bana as Avner Kaufman based on Yuval Aviv
  • Daniel Craig as Steve
  • Ciarán Hinds as Carl
  • Omar Metwally as Ali
  • Mathieu Kassovitz as Robert
  • Hanns Zischler as Hans
  • Ayelet Zurer as Daphna Kaufman
  • Geoffrey Rush as Ephraim
  • Gila Almagor as Avner's Mother
  • Karim Saleh as Issa " Luttif Afif
  • Michael Lonsdale as Papa
  • Mathieu Amalric as Louis
  • Ziad Adwan as Kamal Adwan
  • Moritz Bleibtreu as Andreas
  • Valeria Bruni Tedeschi as Sylvie
  • Meret Becker as Yvonne
  • Jonathan Avigdori as Gad Tsabari (credit as Roy Avigdori)
  • Marie-Josée Croze as Jeanette (a Dutch assassin)
  • Lynn Cohen as Golda Meir

Critical reaction

The film garnered a 78% favorable rating from critics (per Rotten Tomatoes). Roger Ebert praised the film, saying that "With this film [Spielberg] has dramatically opened a wider dialogue, helping to make the inarguable into the debatable." and placed it at #3 on his top ten list of 2005. James Berardinelli wrote that "Munich is an eye-opener " a motion picture that asks difficult questions, presents well-developed characters, and keeps us white-knuckled throughout." He named it the best film of the year; it was the only film in 2005 which he gave four stars, and he also put it on his Top 100 Films of All Time list. Entertainment Weekly film critic Owen Gleiberman said that Munich was the #1 film of 2005. Rex Reed from New York Observer belongs to the group of critics who didn't like the film: "With no heart, no ideology and not much intellectual debate, Munich is a big disappointment, and something of a bore."

Variety reviewer Todd McCarthy called Munich a "beautifully made" film. However, he criticized the film for failing to include "compelling" characters, and for its use of laborious plotting and a "flabby script." McCarthy says that the film turns into "...a lumpy and overlong morality play on a failed thriller template." To succeed, McCarthy states that Spielberg would have needed to implicate the viewer in the assassin squad leader's growing crisis of conscience and create a more "sustain(ed) intellectual interest" for the viewer.

Chicago Tribune reviewer Allison Benedikt calls Munich a "competent thriller", but laments that as an "intellectual pursuit, it is little more than a pretty prism through which superficial Jewish guilt and generalized Palestinian nationalism" are made to "... look like the product of serious soul-searching." Benedikt states that Spielberg's treatment of the film's "dense and complicated" subject matter can be summed up as "Palestinians want a homeland, Israelis have to protect theirs." She rhetorically asks: "Do we need another handsome, well-assembled, entertaining movie to prove that we all bleed red?"

Another critique was Gabriel Schoenfeld's "Spielberg's 'Munich'" in the February 2006 issue of Commentary, who called it "pernicious". He compared the fictional film to history, asserted that Spielberg and especially Kushner felt that the Palestinian terrorists and the Mossad agents are morally equivalent and concluded: "The movie deserves an Oscar in one category only: most hypocritical film of the year."

Writing in Empire, Ian Nathan wrote "Munich is Steven Spielberg's most difficult film. It arrives already inflamed by controversy... This is Spielberg operating at his peak "? an exceptionally made, provocative and vital film for our times."

In defense of the climactic sex scene, critics Jim Emerson of the Chicago Sun-Times and Matt Zoller Seitz of Salon compared it to Lady Macbeth's suicide in Shakespeare's Macbeth, interpreting the sequence as representing the corruption of Avner's personal life as a result of his being conditioned to kill others in order to avenge Munich.

Controversies

Some reviewers have criticized Munich for what they call the film's equating the Israeli assassins with "terrorists". Leon Wieseltier wrote in The New Republic, "... Worse, 'Munich' prefers a discussion of counter-terrorism to a discussion of terrorism; or it thinks that they are the same discussion".

Melman and other critics of the book and the film have said that the story's premise—that Israeli agents had second thoughts about their work—is not supported by interviews or public statements. A retired head of Israel's Shin Bet intelligence service, Avi Dichter, formerly the Internal Security Minister, likened Munich to a children's adventure story: "There is no comparison between what you see in the movie and how it works in reality," he said in an interview with Reuters. In a Time magazine cover story about the film on December 4, 2005, Spielberg said that the source of the film had second thoughts about his actions. "There is something about killing people at close range that is excruciating," Spielberg said. "It's bound to try a man's soul." Of the real Avner, Spielberg says, "I don't think he will ever find peace."

The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA), describing itself as "the oldest, and one of the largest, pro-Israel and Zionist organizations in the United States", called for a boycott of the film on December 27, 2005. The ZOA criticized the factual basis of the film, and leveled criticism at one of the screenwriters, Tony Kushner, who the ZOA has described as an "Israel-hater". Criticism was also directed at the Anti-Defamation League's (ADL) National Director, Abraham Foxman for his support of the film.

David Edelstein of Slate argued that "The Israeli government and many conservative and pro-Israeli commentators have lambasted the film for naiveté, for implying that governments should never retaliate. But an expression of uncertainty and disgust is not the same as one of outright denunciation. What Munich does say is that this shortsighted tit-for-tat can produce a kind of insanity, both individual and collective."

Illano Romano, wife of an Israeli weightlifter slain in the Munich massacre, pointed out that Spielberg overlooked the Lillehammer affair, although Spielberg seems to have been conscious of the omission; the film's opening title frame shows Lillehammer in a montage of city names, with Munich standing out from the rest. The Jewish Journal said that "the revenge squad obsess about making sure only their targets are hit -- and meticulous care is taken to avoid collateral damage. Yet in one shootout an innocent man is also slain ... The intense moral contortions the agents experience as the corpses pile up makes up the substance of the movie."

Christopher Hitchens dismissed the film as "laughable" and criticized Daniel Craig's portrayal of Steve, a character which Hitchens perceived to be "a hopelessly sinister and useless South African Jew."

Historical authenticity

Although Munich is a work of fiction, it describes many actual events and figures from the early 1970s. On the Israeli side, Prime Minister Golda Meir is depicted in the film, and other military and political leaders such as Attorney General Meir Shamgar, Mossad chief Zvi Zamir and Aman chief Aharon Yariv are also depicted. Spielberg tried to make the depiction of the hostage-taking and killing of the Israeli athletes historically authentic. Unlike an earlier film, 21 Hours at Munich, Spielberg's film depicts the shooting of all the Israeli athletes, which according to the autopsies was accurate. In addition, the film uses actual news clips shot during the hostage situation.

The named members of Black September, and their deaths, are also mostly factual. Abdel Wael Zwaiter, a translator at the Libyan embassy in Rome, was shot 11 times, one bullet for each of the victims of the Munich Massacre, in the lobby of his apartment 41 days after Munich. On December 8 of that year Mahmoud Hamshiri, a senior PLO figure, was killed in Paris by a bomb concealed in the table below his telephone. Although the film depicts the bomb being concealed in the telephone itself, other details of the assassination (such as confirmation of the target via telephone call) are accurate. Others killed during this period include Mohammed Boudia, Basil al-Kubasi, Abad al-Chir, Zaid Muchassi, some of whose deaths are depicted in the film. Ali Hassan Salameh was also a real person, and a prominent member of Black September. In 1979 he was killed in Beirut by car bomb that also killed four innocent bystanders and injured 18 others.

The commando raid in Beirut, known as Operation Spring of Youth, also occurred. This attack included future Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Yom Kippur War and Operation Entebbe hero Yonatan Netanyahu, who are both portrayed by name in the film. The methods used to track down and assassinate the Black September members were much more complicated than the methods portrayed in the film; for example, the tracking of the Black September cell members was achieved by a network of Mossad agents, not an informant as depicted in the film.

Atlantic Productions, producers of BAFTA-nominated documentary Munich: Mossad's Revenge, listed several discrepancies between Spielberg's film and the information it obtained from interviews with Mossad agents involved in the operation. It noted that the film suggests one group carried out almost all the assassinations, whereas in reality it was a much larger team. Mossad did not work with a mysterious French underworld figure as portrayed in the book and the film. The assassination campaign did not end because agents lost their nerve but because of the Lillehammer affair in which an innocent Moroccan waiter was killed. This is not mentioned in the film. The targets were not all directly involved in Munich, which Spielberg only acknowledges in the last 5 minutes.

As mentioned above, the film notably ignored the Lillehammer affair, where Israeli assassins killed a Moroccan waiter, Ahmed Bouchiki, mistaking him for Ali Hassan Salameh. As Bristol University History professor Stephen Howe says: "one major puzzle has gone almost unremarked. If... the key (and in itself laudable) impetus for the film's making was the moral questioning prompted by Israeli 'counter-terrorist' actions, why focus on these particular episodes? The film doesn't even include the most glaring and notorious failure, which was also perhaps the most indefensible act... This was the killing in Norway of a hapless and harmless Moroccan waiter, mistaken for alleged Black September boss Ali Hassan Salameh." The agents who were responsible for the killing were tried and convicted in Norway of murder. Israel compensated the victim's family although never took responsibility for the assassination.

Awards and nominations

Won

  • 4th Central Ohio Film Critics Association Awards:
    • Best Ensemble Cast
  • 40th Kansas City Films Critics Circle Awards:
    • Best Director (Steven Spielberg)
    • Best Picture
    • Best Screenplay " Adapted (Tony Kushner and Eric Roth)
  • 4th Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Association Awards:
    • Best Director (Steven Spielberg)
    • Best Picture

Nominated

  • 78th Academy Awards:
    • Best Director (Steven Spielberg)
    • Best Editing (Michael Kahn)
    • Best Original Score (John Williams)
    • Best Picture (Kathleen Kennedy, Steven Spielberg, Barry Mandel and Colin Wilson)
    • Best Screenplay " Adapted (Tony Kushner and Eric Roth)
  • 56th American Cinema Editors Eddie Awards:
    • Best Edited Feature Film " Dramatic (Michael Kahn)
  • Australian Film Institute:
    • Best Actor (Eric Bana)
  • 11th BFCA Critics' Choice Awards:
    • Best Director (Steven Spielberg)
  • 58th Directors Guild of America Awards:
    • Best Director (Steven Spielberg)
  • Empire Awards:
    • Best Thriller
  • 63rd Golden Globe Awards:
    • Best Director (Steven Spielberg)
    • Best Screenplay (Tony Kushner and Eric Roth)
  • 7th Golden Trailer Awards:
    • Best Drama
  • 48th Grammy Awards:
    • Best Score Soundtrack Album for Motion Picture, Television or Other Visual Media (John Williams)
  • 2006 MPSE Golden Reel Awards:
    • Sound Editing in Feature Film " Dialogue and Automated Dialogue Replacement
  • 9th Online Film Critics Society Awards:
    • Best Director (Steven Spielberg)
    • Best Editing (Michael Kahn)
    • Best Screenplay " Adapted (Tony Kushner and Eric Roth)
    • Best Picture
    • Best Original Score (John Williams)
  • 4th Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Association Awards:
    • Best Screenplay (Tony Kushner and Eric Roth)
    • Best Supporting Actor (Geoffrey Rush)
  • 6th World Soundtrack Awards:
    • Best Original Soundtrack (John Williams)

See also

  • Munich massacre
  • Black September
  • Palestinian political violence
  • Operation Wrath of God
  • Sword of Gideon
  • Vigilante film



This webpage uses material from the Wikipedia article "Munich_%28film%29" and is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. Reality TV World is not responsible for any errors or omissions the Wikipedia article may contain.
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