Munich
R1 - America - Universal Pictures
Review written by and copyright: Noor Razzak (25th May 2006).
The Film

September 5, 1972, Munich, in the early hours of the morning eight members of a terrorist group calling themselves Black September snuck into the Olympic village and broke into the quarters of the Israeli team holding them hostage, in exchange for the release of the hostages they demanded that fellow imprisoned comrades be released by Israel and allowed free passage to Egypt. For the next 20 hours the world watched and waited.
All 11 Jewish athletes were killed, and several of the Black September group were also taken, however some survived, and the masterminds behind the plot where still free and living in Europe and other Middle East countries. The Israeli government responded to this attack on their people with air strikes to two training camps, one in Syria and the other in Lebanon. Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir set out hit squads to find the men behind this massacre and kill them as an act of vengeance.
In 1999 I saw the documentary One Day in September that chronicled the massacre and the excruciating 20 hour ordeal, from the initial preparation of the attack, the hostage situation, the inability and ineffectiveness of the German authorities during this ordeal and the failed rescue operation that was concluded to have been poorly planned. The documentary brought to my attention an event that I had not previously heard of, seeing as though it was before my time. It provided a good understanding of the circumstances, and makes for an ideal precursor to this film. Munich takes us into the aftermath, the Israeli response to the massacre.
Steven Spielberg has always been one of my favorite filmmakers of all time, and most certainly one of the most powerful in the business. Many of his films are etched into the psyche of audiences which is the mark of a powerful storyteller. Munich is not the typical Spielberg film, it has no happy endings, there is no nostalgic feeling to it, well not in the traditional sense anyway, and itís much darker than his previous serious films such as Schindlerís List (1993) and Saving Private Ryan (1998). Despite this itís ability to etch itself into the psyche of its viewers is just as strong if not stronger than any of Spielbergís earlier films.
Munich delves into the aftermath following Avner (Eric Bana) a Mossad agent chosen to lead a secret hit squad, whose sole mission is to locate the people behind the Munich massacre and kill them.
In his introduction to this film Spielberg comments that this film is not meant to be seen as an attack or criticism on Israel, whatever the case the message however is simple an eye for an eye may not always the best solution. The film also brilliantly depicts the journey a human being embarks on when faced with violence and murder everyday, no matter what the reason or circumstance. The stress and paranoia take hold and remain long after the mission is complete. Eric Banaís character eventually becomes this product of violence, and the final scenes of this film reflect this when heís making love to his wife. The massacre was something he lived with on a daily basis over the course of completing his mission, it become such a huge part of his life that when sharing personal and private moments with his wife, even then he cannot put them out of his head. Although to a certain extent the scene can also make little sense to some and even I struggle with my final interpretation of it. Considering it seems like the cuts back to the massacre almost feel like heís remembering the event, yet he wasnít there to witness it? I guess sometimes a commentary can be a valuable asset however Spielberg is famous for never recording them‚Ķ
Anyway, leaving the ending aside for now, the performances are all nothing short of fantastic. Bana deserves much praise for this film and carries its weight throughout with the aide of his brilliant support cast made up of Daniel Craig, Ciarin Hinds, an almost unrecognizable Mathieu Kassovitz and Hanns Zischler making up his hit squad. After the first few scenes together and several missions the team develops their relationship with one another, eventually you get the sense that these people have been together forever.
The film takes place in the 70ís and the photography by Spielberg regular Janusz Kaminski and resembles styles seen in film from that era, with such techniques as wide establishing shots that zoom in tighter as well as some handheld shots give it a gritty 70ís era feel. The filmís color palate is washed out and very blue/green/grey heavy, colors that reflect the narrative tone and works hand in hand with the camera styles utilized. In combination with the stunning visual look is also the filmís score, yet gain John Williams provides the voice, while at times is soft and intricate yet never short of emotion.
Although the film has many great things going for it, I did find it entirely too long, running 16 minutes shy of 3 hours, parts do drag however having seen it several times I canít actually justify cutting anything from this final version to make the pace tighter, so make sure you have the time and arenít tired enough to sit through a film of this length. The filmís confusing ending (with Bana making love to his wife) may also come as an odd moment to some audiences, despite these issues Munich is a terrific film and one of Spielbergís best, if you missed this in theaters, then I recommend you check it out on DVD.

Video

Presented in the filmís original theatrical ratio of 2.35:1 this widescreen anamorphic transfer is great, but could have been a little better. The image is generally sharp, colors are rendered well and reflects the washed out tones the director intended, blacks are mainly bold however some night scenes appear murky and film grain is evident in several of those scenes. Aside from the film grain I could not see any flaws; there was no compression artefacting, no edge-enhancement, and no print damage.

Audio

Two audio tracks are included on this release and English Dolby Digital 5.1 track as well as a French Dolby Digital 5.1 track. For the purposes of this review I chose to view the film with its English soundtrack. I found dialogue extremely clear, no distortion is evident on this track, the dialogue spoken is not only in English, but we also get Arabic, Hebrew and French the scenes that include these languages include subtitles as part of the print, however not everything is subtitled. The track also makes effective use of the surrounds, with atmospheric noise such as rain, or traffic, background sounds. More prominent grunt is included for the explosions and gunfire, the music also makes effective use of the 5.1 channels. The only recommendation I can make for this track is an upgrade to a DTS ES track, perhaps for the HD-DVD release?
Optional subtitles are also included in English for the hearing impaired, French and Spanish.

Extras

Universal have released this film in two versions, a 2-disc Collectorís Edition and a single disc release. This is the single disc release and the only extra is an introduction by director Steven Spielberg and runs for 4 minutes 34 seconds. In this clip Spielberg talks about why he made the film and what he hoped to achieve by it.

Overall

The Film: A- Video: A Audio: A Extras: F Overall: C

 


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