Munich (2005)

Genres - Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Docudrama, Period Film, Political Thriller  |   Release Date - Dec 23, 2005 (USA)  |   Run Time - 164 min.  |   Countries - Canada, France, United States  |   MPAA Rating - R
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Review by Perry Seibert

Munich differs from all of Steven Spielberg's previous historical epics because, for the first time, the director is using the past to comment on the present. One of Spielberg's peerless talents is the ability to create tension-filled sequences. Munich's structure, following the exploits of a group of Israeli agents hunting down the terrorists responsible for the murder of Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics, allows Spielberg to put this talent on display throughout the movie. Each of these sequences is varied so that the film avoids becoming visually repetitive even though it clocks in at close to three hours. Though the film works strictly as a thriller, the excellent script traces the gradual emotional and psychological changes that occur to Avner (Eric Bana), the man leading the group. While he never questions the importance of what he does, or really the moral authority to do it, the film does not flinch from the consequences of living in a constant state of alertness fueled by paranoia and fear. The film acknowledges both the visceral thrill and the interior decay that results from vengeance -- a word that once served as the film's working title. Munich does not carry the weight of history that, say, Schindler's List does partly because Munich exists not in a black-and-white world of good and bad actions, but instead reveals a world full of grays. Munich, although about historical events, is very much about what America asks of itself during the war on terrorism. The screenplay is savvy enough to make these themes universal so that the film will not lose its power over time, but setting the film's final sequence with the World Trade Center in the background should tip audiences to the fact that Spielberg has created a very personal reaction to current events. Taken with the same year's politically pointed remake of War of the Worlds, Munich reveals Spielberg to be, at 60, a director committed to making important films that address the tenor of the times.