7 January 2006 | jon.h.ochiai
Justice or Vengeance?
Gandhi said, "An eye for an eye only makes the whole world blind." What distinguishes justice from vengeance? This echoes throughout Steven Spielberg's "Munich". "Munich" is powerful and perhaps Spielberg's most compelling and thought provoking work. He weaves a tapestry of political and social threads focusing on terrorism and the cost of violence. "Munich" is truly amazing in balancing linear storytelling and horrific acts of violence, demonstrating the impact of the aftermath. Spielberg's "Munich" seen through the eyes of Eric Bana's Avner is a powerful allegory that even in the most just and noble fights against terror we eventually become that which we despise. "Munich" really serves as a reminder. Mossad team leader Avner played by Eric Bana is absolutely riveting as the man who begins this righteous cause only to find that the cost is his soul. Anver asks, "When does it ever end?"
At the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich, Palestinian terrorists brutally murdered the Israeli wrestling team. This political statement was seen around the world and depicted in gory detail by Director Spielberg. Based on the book "Vengeance" by George Jones, the screenplay by Tony Kushner and Eric Roth tells the story of the aftermath of this tragedy. A great Lynn Cohen who plays Prime Minister Golda Meir says, "Every civilization finds it necessary to negotiate compromises with its own values." Poetic words for what follows are a search and destroy mission. The Mossad assembles a team lead by Avner (Bana) to track down and kill with extreme prejudice all those involved in the terrorist action in Munich. 11 names are identified for execution. These executions are also intended to serve as statements. Anver though an inexperienced operative and not an assassin is selected for the covert mission by Ephriam (the great Geoffrey Rush) for being a strong and effective leader of men. The assassin team is composed of Steve (Daniel Craigthe next James Bond), Carl (Ciaran Hinds), Robert (Mathieu Kassovitz), and Hans (Hanns Zischler). They are dissociated from the Mossad, i.e. they technically don't exist.
In accepting the lead, Avner must leave his beautiful and pregnant wife Daphna (a very strong Ayelet Zorer) for what could be a number of years. Carl has his doubts about Avner, telling him that he was chosen because he is a "good soldier". Soon Carl respects Avner for his quiet force and conscience. Attack of conscience and paranoia soon engulf the team as they become entrenched in the world of underground intelligence for hire. Avner pays large sums of money for information on the whereabouts of his targets from Louis (wonderfully shady Mathiew Amalric) and his wealthy Papa (weary and noble Michael Lonsdale). Avner soon finds that whomever he kills is eventually replaced, and that he and potentially his family is now a target for the terrorists he was assigned to hunt down and kill. The realization is that it truly never ends. Bana is amazing as a trapped animal in the scene in his thrashed apartmentsearching for weapons of his demise. Paranoia sets in, and the path of justice and vengeance become blurred. In a poignant scene Robert pleads to Avner, "When I lose my righteousness, I lose everything
Nothing about "Munich" is easy, though it is simple. I believe that is Steven Spielberg's intention. "Munich" could be tighter in spots, though this does not diminish the movie's power and impact. Eric Bana emerges as the noble hero battling to salvage his own humanity and his very soul. "When does it ever end?" Perhaps even in the current context there is no real answermaybe what Spielberg is getting at. It is a reminder of our humanity, that even the most righteous cause may cost our souls. "Munich" is truly a powerful movie worth seeing.