Steven Spielberg directs Eric Bana, Daniel Craig and Mathieu Amalric in this true story thriller about the Mossad agents who retired from the Israel security service to hunt down the masterminds of Munich Olympic murders and execute them.
Made in the shadow of 9/11, Spielberg delivers his most mature and disturbing storytelling within the first 90 minutes. Surveillance, assassinations, safe houses. We are immersed in the paranoia, ethics and practicalities of being a globe trotting death squad. Like a lot of the ageing blockbuster genius’ projects in this period he rushed through the shoot and the edit. An academy award qualifying date needed to be hit, this was the go project out a dozen others in development potentials he could of received the greenlight for. Shot for shot you’d never tell, the compositions are flawless, but as a narrative feature the final act falls apart. We watch a sturdy Bana psychologically disintergrate on a dime, a man warped by his own shadow life and methods (with an obvious debt to Coppola’s The Conversation). We are lost in a malaise of an incomplete mission and a man left without a country. We flashback to the instigating terrorist incident during sex scenes. Spielberg shouldn’t be allowed near fucking, as this is possibly one of the worst sex scenes in mainstream cinema. He sees making love as a dark, transactional, lethal experience. He actively avoided it for the first thirty years of his career for good reason. Here, and in Minority Report, screwing feels like the equivalent of sticking your genitals in a bear trap. He just doesn’t seem to understand intimacy or passion. Nudity has a cold, vulnerable, sweaty shiver in Steven’s vision of the world. He’s on surer ground with the tense set pieces, the looping discussions on the ethics of geopolitical revenge and the mysterious French intelligence traders who take his group of orphaned killers under their untrustworthy wing. A few more months in the editing room and Munich might shaken off its later weird indulgences and found perfection. Frustrating that he was churning them out with such blunt ferocity during this decade instead of taking a breath and sculpting a bit of resolution and prudence into his projects. This could have been a definitive cinematic heat check on the concerns of early 21st century. Instead it now plays out like a mere retro stepping stone on a game Craig’s path to 007 stardom.
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