Steven Spielberg has spun another well told tale for us, and this one, "Munich," is the story of the Black September terrorist murders of 11 Israeli olympians at the 1972 games. "Munich" is a possible re-telling of the story of the Israeli response to these murders and the affects on those assigned to fight the battle and on the world at large.
Feeling rage and helplessness as the Israelis are taken and butchered, one cannot help but find resolve to act much as the government of Israel did at the time; by striking back. A show of force appeared necessary to let the world know that Jews would no longer take death lying down and would fight back in the face of worldwide indifference. Palestinian terrorism had opened a wound and Israel was certain to exact an eye for an eye.
But "Munich" is much more complicated than the initial emotions of that time and it is here that Spielberg deserves the most credit. Avner, played by Eric Bana, is the Mossad agent assigned to hunt and kill those behind the Munich massacre and he is Spielberg's conduit for the inner turmoil that is put on display by these actions.
Avner feels a sense of duty and loyalty to Israel, and so he takes on this task. He also has a responsibility to protect his family. But does he? He begins to wonder as the cycle of violence grows and the events he is participating in spin out of control. Also, he begins to question whether the violence can ever end.
Spielberg seems to use this movie as a device to explore our present battle against terrorism. Do we become the enemy who we see as evil, immoral and cruel by slipping down to their levels in fighting back? Does Israel do so in 1972? Do we against al Qaeda today? Is fighting back required to avoid extinction or does it only assure mindless escalation?
Spielberg is also willing to show us the Arab perspective of wanting a home and how determined those without one are to obtain such a place. No one is innocent in this drama and no one is wholly guilty either.
"Munich" is gruesome at times and also tears at our inner fibers as we feel disgusted and shame for our own hate and anger at the same time that we scream out for vengeance and justice. What we are left with, much as Avner is, are scars that never heal.
Spielberg leaves us with more questions then answers as "Munich" ends. However, he closes with a climactic camera shot that has us begging for a way out before we no longer can find it.
Monday, January 2, 2006
Writer's Note: I was born and raised Jewish. I developed individually to be so pro-Israel, that as a young person, I would have defended Israel before the United States in a military action as I saw the cause as being more dire, necessary and noble. I still see things that way in many respects. For the most part, I currently take an overwhelmingly pro-Israel position on the Middle East conflict.