Munich takes place about 30 years ago, but it may be the most urgent film Steven Spielberg has ever made. While Spielberg has made a few historical movies before, so far they have all concerned events that took place well before he was born, and it doesn't exactly require a whole lot of courage these days to say that slavery and the Holocaust were wrong. Munich, on the other hand, is the first to depict an event that occurred during Spielberg's own lifetime, the ramifications of which are still being felt, and debated, today.
The film begins in September 1972, when Palestinian terrorists captured and murdered 11 Israeli athletes at the Summer Olympics in Munich, Germany. The initial violence as the terrorists break into the athletes' suites is blunt, and brutal. And when the authorities respond, they screw up royally; among other things, they have to call off a rescue mission when it turns out the movements of their snipers have been broadcast on TV, where the terrorists can see everything. In one scene, Spielberg puts his camera inside the room as a terrorist steps out onto a balcony, his image transmitted to a TV nearby the door—and there is a palpable tension between the archival video footage and the actor re-enacting it off to the side, just as there is a tension between our knowledge of what will happen and our hope that things might turn out differently (between fate and free will, as it were).
The bulk of the film, however, takes place after the Olympics, when the Israeli government responds to the incident by sending a counter-terrorist team to Europe and other points around the Mediterranean to find and execute 11 Palestinian leaders. The film is based on George Jonas's book Vengeance—previously filmed ...1
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