Wednesday, December 28, 2005


Directed by Steven Spielberg: Rating – sliding scale

Oh my God, what a great movie! Another masterpiece! Blah Blah…whenever a Spielberg movies comes out, critics fall over themselves to sing praises. Some do find faults but others go over the moon. But this time around, Spielberg got a lot of flack for making this movie from people who had never seen the movie or will probably never see the movie. And just like the nonsense surrounding The Passion by Mel Gibson, all the criticism is unfounded. So what is this movie about? Is this movie made like the director truly would have wanted to make it? Or this movie compromised at every step?

1972 Munich Oympics. Palestinian armed gunmen storm the Olympics ground, kill 2 Israeli athletes and take 9 other hostages. Eventually, they end up killing the 9 hostages. The world is shocked. Israel decides to respond strongly. So it hires a secret group which goes out and kills all the people behind the Munich Killings. That is what history has recorded more or less. What about the real story?

Munich starts off with archive footage which adds some realism to the movie. Then the movie focuses on the Israeli response in recruiting people to go kill the men behind the Munich killing. From that point on, the movie moves from one killing to another, showing us how the response was planned, how the group joked and tried to balance their lives against the violence they were committing. But the movie humanizes the Palestinian men behind the Munich killings. This is what critics of the movie will hate. How can the movie care about the Palestinian people? They believe those people should have no voice. Well Spielberg gives them a voice, even throws in some intelligent debate about freedom and the need for having a home. In one scene, the movie tries to show the complicated threads involved in the killings and how there might be multiple parties involved. The hunters will eventually become the hunted. And the hunted might become the hunters again. The cycle continues. Fine and dandy then!

There are two sides for every story. There have to be! A movie about such an incident can’t get away by simply supporting one side and ignoring the other. With that in mind, Spielberg does try to give both sides a fair share but the problem is a lot of scenes feel forced and compromised. Sometimes, it seems the movie is a sugar coated layer on top of the real hatred that lurks beneath. How are a lot of people on both sides so calm and just lovey dovey? Critics I am sure will talk about the movie’s complexity and depth but the problems is I didn’t seen any of that. The movie is as straight forward as they come. In order to make a truly gritty movie which takes on the issues head-on might require a non-Hollywood person; it might require an outsider who is uncompromising in making the movie. I keep thinking of Battle of Algiers and how it was a brilliant gritty movie. I keep thinking of Spielberg’s first 20 minutes of Saving Private Ryan and how raw those scenes were. But Munich seems flossed up. It does not have the documentary feel that Syriana did nor does it have the rawness of Battle of Algiers. But maybe that is understandable. It is a Hollywood movie with a lot at stake. The fact that Spielberg made this movie has probably got enough people mad at him. I just hope that one day someone makes this movie the way it is meant to be made – raw, gritty and uncompromising. On a positive note, the movie does not feel like a Spielberg movie. At no point does it overdose on sappy emotion, at no point does it tug at our heart and wants us to shed a tear. I am still not sure how to rate this movie? I would give it a 7/10, maybe a maximum of an 8 (maybe…). It is better seen as an action thriller than a political movie. It still feels like a multiplex film with few tweaks made to reach out and create some awareness in the audience. Schindler’s List was quite amazing. However, Munich is not on that same wavelength. Not even close. Also, since the topic of violence creates more violence is something that I have seen in endless Asian political movies, I was not as awed by those statements. Ofcourse, on the flip side, I can’t remember too many American movies trying to show two sides of an issue and even showing that violence might not be the answer (gasp!). So this might be a step forward from Hollywood’s perspective? Oh, the running time of 2 hours and 45 minutes is a bit too long though.

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