Sunday, January 29, 2006

Munich

One of my favorite movie lines is from the wacky but no means good film, Dragnet: Joe Friday: Ah, sure, but just like every other foaming, rabid psycho in this city with a foolproof plan, you've forgotten you're facing the single finest fighting force ever assembled. Reverend Jonathan Whirley: The Israelis? I remember thinking, “good” when I first learned that Mossad had assassinated many of the Black September architects of the Munich Massacre. “They deserved it. Don’t mess with Israel.” In my early twenties I slowly started to reconsider my position on the Israel-Palestinian conflict. By no means do I agree with terrorist tactics, but when Palestinians are murdered by Israeli settlers when they are simply trying to harvest olives, future suicide bombers are created. I slowly came out to my friends with this opinion. Not being Jewish, I was taking a risk. To accuse Israel of wrongdoing is to take the risk of being called an anti-Semite. If you are Jewish, you are accused of being a self-hating Jew. With the release of Munich, there have been a number of op-eds that of accused Steven Spielberg of as much, which is beyond ridiculous. Spielberg said, “I wanted to make a realistic film. I did not want to demonize the targets. To deal with the war on terror, you have to deal with the world as it is. And real people exist on both sides of these issues.” Munich is simply one of the best films Spielberg has ever made. The screenplay by Oscar winner Eric Roth (Forrest Gump) and Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award winner, Tony Kushner (Angeles in America) do not present a battle between good verses evil but all the grays in between. The toy maker turned bomb-maker, Robert (French actor Mathieu Kassovitz) exclaims, “"I don't know that we ever were that decent. Thousands of years of hatred doesn't make you decent. But we were supposed to be righteous. It's a beautiful thing. That's Jewish. That's what I knew. That's what I was taught. And now I'm losing that… and I lose that and… that's… that's everything. That's my soul." The German antiques dealer, document forger Hans (Hanns Zischler) disgusted with himself after a vengeance killing says, "In seven months, we've killed six of the eleven names. We've killed one replacement. One of our targets is in prison and four, including Ali Hassan Salameh, is at large. One of our own has fallen. Since we began, the other side has sent letter bombs to eleven embassies, hijacked three planes, killed 130 passengers in Athens, and wounded scores more… and killed out military attaché in Washington. Some of it was done by a Venezuelan called Carlos "The Jackal," who replaced Zaid Muchassi, who replaced Hussein Al-Chir. Black September's original leadership has been decimated. But new leaders are emerging for whom Black September wasn't violent enough. And to dispatch our six dispatched targets, we must have spent something close to $2 million. Mrs. Meir says to the Knesset, 'The World will see that killing Jews will from now on be an expensive proposition.' But killing Palestinians isn't exactly cheap.” Long time Spielberg editor Michael Kahn keeps the tension taunt and one scene in particular in Paris out Hitchcock’s Hitchcock in nail biting tension. You are able to tell each city you are in almost just by how cinematographer Janusz Kaminski has shot it. John Williams has created another gorgeous score. The film starts with the Black September terrorists taking Israeli athletes hostage then brilliantly intercutting between ABC archival footage of Jim McKay and the voice of the late ABC News anchor Peter Jennings, Israeli and Arab families as well as the terrorists watching the television. I was only two during the Munich Olympics so I had never seen the footage before. While I knew the facts of what had occurred, I had never heard McKay’s famous line, "In life our greatest hopes and our worst fears are seldom realized. Tonight, our worst fears have been realized. . . They're all gone.” Heartbreaking. Avner, (Eric Bana) head of the team created to avenge the athletes has flashbacks to Munich throughout the film, filling in the holes that the ABC footage doesn’t show, culminating in the terrible events at the airport. The film ends with Avner asking his Mossad contact Ephraim (Geoffrey Rush) to “break bread” with his family that evening in his Brooklyn home for Shabbat. Ephraim refuses. “I can’t.” And he walks away. In the distance, across the Hudson, the World Trade Center Twin towers are part of the lower Manhattan skyline.

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