Thriller R Running time: 2:44
IMDB rating: 7.6 Aspect: Wide; Languages: English, French; Subtitles: English, French, Spanish; Audio: DD 5.1
At its core, Munich is a straightforward thriller. Based on the book Vengeance: The True Story of an Israeli Counter-Terrorist Team by George Jonas, itís built on a relatively stock movie premise, the revenge plot: innocent people are killed, the bad guys got away with it, and someone has to make them pay. But director Steven Spielberg uses that as a starting point to delve into complex ethical questions about the cyclic nature of revenge and the moral price of violence. The movie starts with a rush. The opening portrays the kidnapping and murder of Israeli athletes by PLO terrorists at the 1972 Olympics with scenes as heart-stopping and terrifying as the best of any horror movie. After the tragic incident is over and several of the terrorists have gone free, the Israeli government of Golda Meir recruits Avner (Eric Bana) to lead a team of paid-off-the-book agents to hunt down those responsible throughout Europe, and eliminate them one-by-one (in reality, there were several teams). Itís physically and emotionally messy work, and conflicts between Avner and his teamís handler, Ephraim (Geoffrey Rush), over information Avner doesnít want to provide only make things harder. Soon the work starts to take its toll on Avner, and the deeper moral questions of right and wrong come into play, especially as it becomes clear that Avner is being hunted in return, and that his familyís safety may be in jeopardy. By all rights, Munich should be an unqualified success--it has gripping subject matter relevant to current events; it was co-written by one of Americaís greatest living playwrights (Tony Kushner, Angels in America) and an accomplished screenwriter (Eric Roth); it stars an appealing and likeable actor in Eric Bana; and it was helmed by Steven Spielberg, of all people. While it certainly is a great movie, it falls just short of the immense heights such talent should propel it to. This is due more to some questionable plot devices than anything else (such as the contrived use of a family of French informants to locate the terrorists). But while certain aspects ring hollow, the movie as a whole is a profound accomplishment, despite being only "inspired by true events," and not factually based on them. From the ferocious beginning to the unforgettable closing shot, Munich works on a visceral level while making a poignant plea for peace, and issuing an unmistakable warning about the destructive cycle of terror and revenge. As one of the characters intones, "There is no peace at the end of this."