REVIEW: “Munich” (**1/2)

Posted by · 10:46 pm · December 6th, 2005

MunichSteven Spielberg’s “Munich,” the big, mysterious player in this year’s Oscar game, has come. And as anyone could have expected, no film could have held up to the expectation.

Not only, however, does the film fail to reach the spot reserved for it in everyone’s mind throughout the summer and fall shoot, but it settles in as a slightly misguided and confused tale oblivious to its own potential.

The screenplay, by Tony Kushner and Eric Roth, is based on the extremely provocative book titled “Vengeance” by George Jonas. These two tyrants of storytelling bravado are a wet dream for those hoping for potent, pointed commentary mixed with fascinating storytelling. The mixture is, in effect, not so potent. Not so pointed.

A story about the fallout of the Palestian execution of Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics is a thematically risilient one to be committed to film in today’s times. Mossad agents seeking out – vengeance – for the heinous murders in retaliation is an eye-for-an-eye and we’d all be blind sort of reality that deserves more than the boilerplate of a squad of assassins and their tasks at hand, intricacies and all.

These men could have served as such lighting rods as to bury any writing effort ever attempted, to be blunt, but they are rather characters to fill the void of plot instead.

Eric Bana’s very internal performance as Avner, leader of the group, is a defining one that still lacks a needed edge. Daniel Craig is given nothing but cool clothes to wear and funny nods to offer in ironic situations, while Ciaran Hinds is wasted both in performance and in character.

Geoffrey Rush gets the creepy guy-behind-it-all role that does nothing but offer the same boring point in each of his three or four scenes – that being a commanding position against the agents’ defiance and overall ability to think for themselves the implications of what they’re doing.

What is commendable about “Munich,” and highly so, are the technical aspects on display.

Of immediate note is Janusz Kaminski’s electrifying cinematography, which finesses the film to a point that it feels like one of the political genre thrillers of the decade in which the story takes place.

MunichJohn Williams’s score is largely non-existent until the credits role, but when it’s there, it is, as is typical, the man at the height of his game. The restrained schedule shows somewhat, however, but even still, the music offers its part toward the tone. And the pulsing percussion of the tense scenes adds layers to the suspense.

The sound of the film is also worthy of a mention, both terrifying and beautiful. This is a loud film when it counts, a quiet film when it counts just as much.

And finally, Michael Kahn’s skillful hand cuts the wonderfully realized imagery in a way that ushers the narrative along swiftly, both without confusion and indicative of thematics.

No, there is nothing wrong with the way Munich is put together. Spielberg is still a master storyteller. The problems with this film, shockingly, reside on the page. At two and a half hours, it takes too long to realize it either doesn’t know exactly how to put what it has to say, or otherwise so thoroughly indicates it that the message and the statement is lost in the shuffle.

Ultimately, however, nothing so powerful as the final shot of the film could have been afforded. Pity it couldn’t have come a half hour earlier and at the end of a tighter, more focused depiction of one of the most relevant hours in the history of the ages old conflict in the Middle East.

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