12/25/2005

Munich

Steven Spielberg has made some of the most popular popcorn films ever, from Jaws and E.T. to the Indiana Jones trilogy (eventually a quadrilogy?) and Jurassic Park. It is precisely because he knows how to entertain us with thrills and chills that has given him the ability, and freedom, to make, perhaps, some of the most important films as well.

Starting with Schindler's List in '93 (the same year as the aforementioned Park), Spielberg has created some astonishingly, hauntingly, beautiful, personal films. Following List was Saving Private Ryan, which begat HBO's Band of Brothers, and now, Munich, the story of Israeli retribution against the Palestinian terrorist group Black September after the murder of eleven Israeli athletes during the 1972 Olympic Games.

Using Israel's vengeance as a backdrop, Munich is the story of Avner, the Mossad agent charged with tracking down eleven terrorist leaders and killing them, to show that Israel is strong, and isn't going away any time soon. As one of the Mossad agents says in the film, "Don't fuck with the Jews."

The film chronicles Avner's descension from a loving husband and new father to a paranoid, haunted man, a shell of his former self, as the blood on his hands thickens. It's a wonder his wife was able to recognize him at the end. Death takes more of its toll from those who pull the trigger, rather than those whom the bullet finds.

What, Munich asks, is the final cost of peace? How much war, how much death, must be meted out before it's enough?

It's late, so I think I'll save the film's technical merits, of which there are many, for another time. I will say, however, that Munich is, by far, one of Spielberg's best-looking films in recent memory, if not ever. This is the work of a master who knows his craft inside and out, backwards and forwards. Absolutely one of the year's best, and most important, films.

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