Underground Film Journal

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Movie Review: Munich

By Mike Everleth ⋅ January 16, 2006


It’s always interesting, to me anyway, when my entertainment choices in a short period of time all coincidentally share similar themes. For example, before seeing Munich I recently read the graphic novels The Fixer and Persepolis 1 & 2. All of these deal with the perpetuation of violence and the toll war takes on individuals, although the “war” in Munich isn’t a specific conflict, but the ongoing violence between Israelis and Palestinians.

Although, while watching Munich, my bullshit detector didn’t go off like it did while reading The Fixer (you can read my review here). But Joe Sacco’s graphic “novel” is actually a work of comics journalism while Steven Spielberg’s film is a fictional work “inspired by a true story” (as one of the opening title cards claims). But what’s the “true” story here?

Yes, it’s true a group of Palestinian terrorists calling themselves Black September took hostage and subsequently killed 11 Israeli athletes at the 1972 Summer Olympics. It’s also true that many of those terrorists were eventually killed themselves in the years that followed. But is any of the story of Avner (Eric Bana), a Mossad assassin who claims to have killed some of those Palestinians, actually true? Or is all of that just the work of a man with an overactive imagination like The Fixer‘s Neven?

The film is based on the book Vengeance: The True Story of an Israeli Counter-Terrorist Team by George Jones. I haven’t read Vengeance, but the description sounds as though the film follows it very closely and that there’s only one source of the tale, the main character of Avner. There’s a debate going on in the Amazon.com reviews of the book about whether anything this Avner says is actually true.

But, like The Fixer, it almost doesn’t matter if any of it is fact or fiction since the main objective of both works is to explore the fog that enshouds horrific events, such as the Bosnian War and the 1972 Olympic massacre.

Munich raises a whole host of issues regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and mostly questions Israel’s role in it’s escalation, whether the country actually participated in these illegal events or not. And while earlier this year, Spielberg was a promotional machine for War of the Worlds defending Tom Cruise and whether or not his religion believes in space aliens, the director has pulled a Steve Ditko and is letting Munich stand on its own without letting his personal beliefs guide viewers’ own interpretations of the film.