R for strong graphic violence,
some sexual content, nudity, and language.
January 6, 2006
Eric Bana, Daniel Craig,
Ciaran Hinds, Geoffrey Rush, Mathieu Kassovitz, Hanns
Zischler, Ayelet Zurer, Mathieu Amalric, Michael Lonsdale,
The Book Vengeance
by George Jonas
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By Dr. Tom Snyder
Editor MovieGuide Magazine
Critics and awards committees have not been very kind to
Steven Spielberg's new movie about the 1972 massacre of 11 Israelis
at the Summer Olympics in Munich and its aftermath. Yet, it's
a much better movie than most of the other movies picked, especially
the current favorite Brokeback Mountain.
Even so, MovieGuide® can't endorse this movie, which
is simplistically titled Munich. Not only is Munich
filled with graphic and sometimes disturbing violence, it also
contains strong foul language, sex scenes, and explicit nudity.
Furthermore, its political commentary on the fight against terrorism,
including the current War on Terror, is weak at best, and offensive
and disturbing at worst.
The movie opens with images of the Palestinian terrorists, calling
themselves Black September, kidnapping the Israeli athletes and
their coaches. It then switches to Avner, an agent with the Mossad,
the Israeli spy agency. The Prime Minister, Golda Meir, wants
Avner to lead a team of four other assassins to murder the Arab
Palestinian leaders allegedly involved in the Munich affair.
Avner and his team are fairly gung ho about the assignment, although
the separation from his wife and newly born daughter is agonizing
for Avner. The movie shows most of the team relishing the intrigue
and moral justice of their crusade. The team gets help in locating
its human targets from a mysterious young Frenchman named Louis,
whose father heads an organization that sells information to the
The assignments start to go slightly wrong, however. Then, when
a female contract killer murders one of their own, Avner and his
men track her down in revenge. In another sequence, Louis, who's
upset about catching Avner in a lie, arranges for Avner's team
to stay overnight at a safe house, which Louis has also offered
to a group of Palestinian terrorists. Posing as a left-wing German
terrorist, Avner converses with Ali, one of the Palestinians,
who tells Avner that he's just trying to find a home by killing
Israelis. Later, Avner has to kill Ali when Ali and his men show
up at one target's location.
With Ali, the terrorist targets suddenly become more human to
Avner. Also, another one of his men is killed. Avner becomes paranoid
and torn by guilt. The emotional tension builds and Avner becomes
almost literally haunted by his work. The comfort of his beloved
wife barely assuages his nightmares. Avner starts questioning
his boss, and even begins to withdraw his attachment and allegiance
Though Spielberg directs Munich brilliantly, two scenes
with gratuitous full male and female nudity and a couple of explicit
sex scenes between Avner and his wife pollute his work here. The
brutality of the violence by the terrorists and Avner's team is
also shocking. The gratuitous, immoral depiction of this content
undermines the tense, complex, dramatic, and poetic quality of
the writing, editing, acting, and directing.
Munich also has some thematic problems.
First, the movie sides with Avner's comment to his boss that,
instead of killing terrorists, Israel should just arrest them
like Adolph Eichmann, the Nazi, and perhaps execute them, despite
Israel's lack of a death penalty. This, of course, is the solution
that the Clinton administration and its Justice Dept. tried in
the 1990s, a solution that resulted in the murderous attack on
9/11 of 2001 (the movie ends with a shot of the Twin Towers in
New York City).
Secondly, the movie sets up a kind of moral equivalency between
the Palestinian terrorists who murder Israeli citizens and Israel,
which tries to bring the murderous terrorists to justice by killing
them. Munich also explicitly suggests that, by assassinating
these terrorist leaders, Israel, and, by extension the Bush administration
today, is just creating more Arab and Muslim terrorists who will
simply take the dead leaders' place. That, of course, is also
true if you just arrest the terrorists and give them the kind
of justice they deserve.
In the end, Avner is so traumatized by his experience that he
not only stops working for the Mossad, he also refuses to return
to Israel. Thus, he has become a man without a country. Like Louis
and his family, Avner declares his primary allegiance to be his
own family. Unlike Louis and his family, Avner decides that, for
his family's sake and the sake of his own sanity, he can no longer
participate in the violent world of international intrigue and
It is written somewhere, Avner tells his boss at the end, that
we should break bread together. Come and have dinner with my family,
he offers. No, his boss tersely replies, then walks away. Thus,
Avner's newfound revelation has completely separated him from
Israel. A distant image of the Twin Towers poetically and hauntingly
foreshadows the climax of Israel's War on Terror.
The argument in Munich that planting explosives to kill
a terrorist does not work and probably is immoral does make sense.
Planting an explosive is always a danger, because, even with timers,
etc., you can never know if an innocent bystander, including women
and children, will also get hurt or killed. Political violence
like this is always evil, even if your target is a murderer. Murderers
and terrorists should be spied upon, arrested, convicted, and
executed ASAP by the state, and the state should wage open warfare
against them by military means. Governments and their citizens
can also fight terrorism by spreading democratic capitalism and
other conservative values throughout the world.
Viewed in this light, President Bush is right about the War on
Terror. Democratic capitalism and conservatism will indeed help
to transform the Arab and Muslim world. These things are not enough,
however. The moral and spiritual values of the Bible and of Christianity
must be coupled with democratic capitalism and conservative values,
however, if the War on Terror is to be won. Thus, we should fight
the ideas of Islamic terrorism and political murder with another,
better idea – the Gospel of Jesus Christ!
Ultimately, Spielberg presents a liberal, pacifist worldview
in Munich. Such a worldview is neither democratic, capitalistic,
conservative, moral, nor Christian. Furthermore, not only will
it not work in the Middle East (or anywhere else for that matter),
but it most likely will create far more problems than it solves.
Liberalism and pacifism did not defeat Adolf Hitler and the National
Socialists in Germany, Japan and Italy. Nor did it defeat the
Soviet Union during the Cold War. Thus, Spielberg's obvious desire
at the end of Munich to make an argument for peaceful
co-existence may be commendable, but it seems to violate biblical
standards of justice, if not morality. It also doesn't seem to
be workable, especially with the kinds of Neo-Marxist* and Islamofascist
terrorists that have been so actively murderous in the Middle
East and around the world since the 1960s.
Historically speaking, it should be noted that the idea of a
"Palestinian" homeland is a flawed idea. In the first
place, the word Palestine is a derivative Latin reference to the
Philistines, an ethnic Greek group that God, using King David
and the Israelites, kicked out of Israel. The crusaders used the
Latin word Palestina or Palestine to denote the Holy Land, and
the British brought back the English word after World War I. Thus,
Palestine is not an Arab or Muslim name at all! Moreover, anyone
who lives in the area, whether Arab, Jew, Christian, or even atheist
or Buddhist, rightfully can be called a "Palestinian."
In 1923, the British took part of Palestine, re-named it Trans-Jordan
or Jordan, and gave it to the Arabs. In 1947, the United Nations
gave part of the remaining Palestine to the Jews, who re-titled
it Israel, and part of the land to the Arabs, but the Arab Muslims
rejected the offer because they wanted all of Palestine. The Arabs,
including Jordan and other Arab or Muslim states, waged war on
the Jews in 1948 and 1967 and lost both times. Even though it
lost in 1948, Jordan retained control of part of the U.N.-mandated
Arab territory until 1967.
In an effort, therefore, to support his liberal plea for peaceful
co-existence and moral equivalency between the Arab/Muslim terrorists
and Israel, Spielberg has had to ignore, revise, and distort both
language and history. Of course, all the land in the Middle East
does not belong to Arabs, Jews, Christians, or any other non-divine
person. It actually belongs to God!
Thus, although Munich is a mesmerizing, provocative
work by a genius filmmaker, intelligent conservatives, friends
of Israel, and Christians most likely will be disturbed by its
liberal political conclusions about Israel, Arabs, Muslims, and
the War on Terror. Many will also be asking themselves, was all
that blood, sex, nudity, and obscenity necessary to tell this
story? MovieGuide® doesn't think they were necessary.
A Final Note
In the past, some pseudo-intellectual left-wing critics complained
that Spielberg was wasting his talent on "manipulative"
movies for a broad audience, movies with a "childish,"
or more innocent, attitude toward adult sex and romance. In the
last 10 years, Mr. Spielberg has been listening to them and including
more sex and nudity, and more strong foul language, in his movies.
Mr. Spielberg should stop listening to the left-wing critics
who want him to include humanist notions of sexuality and language
in his movies. They add nothing to his work, and prevent his work
from being seen by a broad audience, much less a family audience.
Mr. Spielberg was far more successful as an artist, and as a human
being, when his movies re-invented the classical storytelling
techniques of the Golden Age of Hollywood, in a profound style
that serious adults could also really enjoy. It's been a long
time since his movies reflected that uplifting, redemptive, old-fashioned,
pro-American spirit. We miss that Spielberg. It's t ime to bring
him back, or at least re-invent him in a new way that all types
of audiences (including more intelligent ones) can enjoy. If the
iconoclastic, pseudo-intellectual leftists and atheists don't
like it, well, tell them they can lump it.
* Some of the Arab and Palestinian terrorists in the past were
pushing a Neo-Marxist, leftist agenda rather than an Islamofascist
More Movie and Television
articles on CBN.com
Dr. Snyder is editor of MovieGuide, whose website is www.movieguide.org.
He has a Ph.D. in Film Studies from Northwestern University near
Chicago, where his specialties were film genre and religion, myth
and politics in film.
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