Instead of lying in bed in pain, I went to see Munich — Steven Spielberg’s latest — and agonized instead.
The good stuff: excellent performances, stellar cast, compelling story, a fairly balanced approached to very explosive material.
The bad stuff: Schindler’s List, as horrific as the subject was, drew you along because of the personalities of a few of the characters. Schindler himself (what’s this nutty guy going to think up next?), the Nazi played by Ralph Fiennes (creepy, creepy, creepy), and a few others. Heavy handed? Sure. That’s Spielberg, he can’t resist putting a red coat on a little girl in the crowds of doomed and innocent, so we can see her later when they dig up the mass grave. But the movie never bored me, though at times I winced not just in sympathy for the lives lost and the brutality of the Nazis, but also because of that last speech of Schindler’s, sobbing that he could have saved more, he could have saved more. Enough.
I do have a point, and here it is: Munich is not heavy handed in the same way. The story is much simpler, of course. The 1972 Olympics (in Munich, of course), a group of Palestinian-oriented terrorists abduct and kill some dozen Israeli atheletes. Golda Meir, then Prime Minister of Israel, decides that the only possible response is to send out her people to kill all the terrorists who were involved, but who got away. This movie is mostly about one group of five men who are sent to Europe with a list of seven names. It’s about home and national identity and the nature of violence. It’s about right and wrong, and the way one young man views all these things.
Apparently a lot of people are mad at Spielberg about this movie. The Israelis think he wasn’t sympathetic enough to the purpose of the exercise. I think he did a pretty good job of making clear that there was no right response, and that the one they tried was less right than many others might have been.
But this is a long, dark, sorrowful movie. Emphasis on ‘long’ — my mind insisted on wandering away at the oddest moments, just for a break.
Well done? Yes. Lots to think about? Absolutely. See it again? No.