The Movie Munich
Just before 5 am on September 5, 1972, eight terrorist entered the rooms of the Israeli athletes in the Olympic village of Munich, Germany. The ensuing drama that unfolds in the movie Munich is suspenseful, and intriguing; the action is compelling, and sometimes heart-wrenching. The screenplay was adapted by Tony Kushner and Eric Roth from the book Vengeance written by George Jonas(Cohen). Producer Steven Spielberg describes it as “Israel’s covert response to Munich…that looks at the mechanics of assassination (Munich). ” Munich was released just before Christmas (Dec 23) in 2005 and made around $47. million dollars at the box office (Cohen). After winning the DVD on eBay, I received it two weeks later and watched it around 8:30 pm that same night. I did not realize the movie was 163 minutes long until I noticed how late it was getting and it felt like I was only in the middle of the movie. Eric Bana stars in this movie as Avner Kaufman, the leader of a team of four other Mossad agents who have all committed their lives to Israel’s ultimate fight and cause. The now famous Daniel Craig (current James Bond) plays Steve, who is somewhat of the “bad-boy” of the group.
Geoffrey Rush is Ephraim, the group’s case officer, and Ciaran Hands plays the analytic “good-guy” role of Carl. The movie opens with a group of American athletes returning from a night out on the town, and they assist what they perceived to be a group of fellow Olympians out past their curfew (just like them), over the gate that barricaded the Olympic Village. They were all dressed in jumpsuits and had tote bags (like athletes), but, immediately after entering the village and parting ways with their unsuspecting accomplices, they placed their jumpsuits in the tote bags and pulled out their masks and machine guns.
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These were the eight members of the terrorist group Black September that would storm Building 31 and enter the rooms of the athletes chosen to represent Israel. They went on to kill two Israelis and capture nine hostages. The scenes of these events were thrilling and action packed, however, this story was not concentrated on the over 21 hour hostage situation, which ultimately led to the death of 5 of the Palestinian terrorists and all 11 Israelis captured in Munich that night. Instead it was focused on the course of action taken by Prime Minister of Israel, Golda Meir, for the vengeance of these Israeli lives ost and the ensuing drama. Under her orders, agent Avner Kaufman(Eric Bana) was asked to resign from Mossad (Israeli intelligence) to lead a secret squad of men that would operate with no association to Israel in order to locate and assassinate 11 Palestinian targets that had a hand in the Munich murders. The story centers in on the actions, events, and conflicts that this unconventionally grouped team of 5 ordinary men must endure to carry out their assassination missions successfully.
Avner Kaufman and his team members are all fictional characters loosely based on the information given to George Jonas by Julal Aviv for his book Vengeance (Biewen). Julal Aviv is alleged to be a former Mossad agent that took part in many international military missions for Israel and claims to have led Operation Wrath of God, an operation to assassinate the Palestinian terrorists who carried out the 1972 Munich murders (Biewen). During the making of the film there had been many debates concerning the authenticity of Julal Aviv’s actual role in any team of assassins and have yet to be officially confirmed or denied (Biewen).
Many of the details of the historical events and even the names of many important key figures in this movie are very accurate and I think depicted very well. There was an abundant use of actual news video and audio clips that I feel aided in the feel of authenticity throughout the film. In an interview of the Israeli coach that escaped the Black September attacks, he stated that one of the other coaches did in fact attempt to hold the door closed from the intruding terrorists while shouting, “Run boys run! ” (The Tragedy of the Munich Games).
This was almost exactly as it was depicted in the movie, however, this coach was actually the first Israeli shot and killed but that is not what the movie portrayed. Munich did accurately display the drama and fright felt throughout most of the world with the first televised terroristic attack. It also showed the confusion of conflicting details and reports from different news sources throughout the media. Referring to the 11 Israelis killed, Golda Meir did promise the families that their lives will be avenged.
The movie covered the hijacking of a 727 that led to the release of the 3 surviving Black September terrorists from German imprisonment on October 29. Towards the end of the movie there even seems to be an insinuation of a botched and unorganized handling of the hostage crisis by the German police, as has been alleged by many, at the Furstenfeldbruck airport. As the terrorists and the hostages entered the bus that was to escort them to the airport, one of the Black September members seemed to be comforting an Israeli hostage with, “We will ride this bus and fly away… fter, you go back to your home or to your Olympic games,” with a tone that seemed sincere enough to imply that was their only true intentions (Munich). Former German police officer Hanz Hohhensinn recalls there being sixteen German police officers at the airport that were ordered to ambush the terrorists and that several of them chose to abandon this “suicide mission” at the last second (The Tragedy of the Munich Games). The fear and confusion in the terrorists’ eyes on the bus and during the execution of the hostages at the airport seemed to imply it all got out of hand and that their hand was forced to kill for their cause.
There was a paid settlement for the Israeli families of the 11 slain athletes from the German government, who never directly admitted to any wrongdoing (Cohen). They were many other factual events including names and locations of targeted assassinations and bombings by both the Israelis and Palestinians that were described in accurate detail. Although there were so many accurate portrayals of the real-life events that took place, there might have been just as many details left out, added, or changed to make the story to make it more interesting.
It left out demands and deadlines of the Black September group to free Palestinian refugees. The producers changed the location of the bomb that killed the squads’ second victim, Mahmoud Hamshiri (Cohen). The bomb was actually concealed under a table which held a phone, in the movie Robert (Mathieu Kassouitz) dismantles the phone itself and places the bomb inside(Cohen). They added the seduction of a foreign female assassin that killed one of the 5 men in the group. They also excluded the tremendous operation of Mossad agents collecting the information to locate their targets (Biewen).
Israeli money to a French informer, Louis (Mathieu Amalric), substituted for the time and efforts of the Mossad in the movie. Until the latter part of the movie, the viewer was left thinking there was only one squad carrying out the mission of eliminating members of terrorist organizations, instead , there were actually several secret cells executing this same mission (Biewen). Nor did it include any of the failed attempts, mistaken identities, or state the number of innocent bystanders killed in the actual execution of these assassinations. They were a number of agents ried and convicted in Norway when a Moroccan waiter was shot and killed as he was mistaken for Ali Hassan Salameh (Cohen). This event was known as the Lillehammer affair and it is what many people credit to the ending of this assassination campaign (Cohen). In his introduction to the film Steven Spielberg he states, “this is not a documentary…,” he goes on further to say it is an “obscure and imaginative explanation of historical events (Munich). ” I did not watch this introduction until the second time I watched the film and appreciated the honesty of it.
What I felt I deciphered out of the extremely succesful producer’s introduction was that to him, the book Vengeance was such a compelling drama that it didn’t really matter what was fact or fiction. I think the movie is intentionally full of allegations and contradictions that can neither be confirmed nor denied. I felt like it gave me room to wonder, “If this was an operation formed in such secrecy, then how are they showing such elaborate details? ” I think the bulk of this movie is fiction.
No one can confirm the trials and tribulations of the men that no government will acknowledges existed. The only real indication of how long these men attempted to fulfill their mission of assassinating all 11 names originally given to them was the growth of Avner’s daughter that was born near the beginning of his mission and appeared to be a 3-year-old once he returned home. Also the postscript just before the end credits informed us that, 9 of 11 targeted terrorists were killed including Hassan Salameh in 1979, indicating that the story did not exceed 7 years (Munich).
The likeness of the actors cast to play the roles of the terrorists, athletes, police, as well as the political and military leaders of that time I felt were almost spot-on. The attention of detail given to the accuracy of the look of the movie is worthy of being commended. As in most Spielberg productions most every detail was thought of: from the white hat worn by a terrorist, to the popularity of V-necks and scarfs. I’m sure it was no small feat to accomplish the look of cafes, bistros, and restaurants of that time for each location they successfully mimicked.
Filling the tight streets of Rome or Athens with a great number of classic cars from the 1970’s and before was very impressive. With telephone booths utilized so frequently, I found myself wondering how much easier their missions would have been with a couple of cell phones. An image of the Eiffel Tower in the background and you know the movie is intended to be in France, but, placing the characters in a market in front of the landmark buying spices you can only buy in France is a little more impressive.
Only 27 years after World War II, Germany was attempting to change their world view with unthreatening soft pastel colors throughout their landscapes and their uniforms customized for the Olympic Games (The Tragedy of the Munich Games). This attempt to lessen the shroud of threat by Nazism was well-represented in the movie’s portrayal of Munich. I especially enjoyed the naive acceptance and abuse of cigarettes prevalent throughout the 70’s and this movie. Although I feel Eric Bana’s acting is limited to only a couple of emotions: sad, mad, scared, and somewhat happy, I think he performed very well in his usual role of a troubled man.
I didn’t once think to question the authenticity of his accent. The supporting cast of superb actors who are not very well-known helped tremendously. The only slow parts in the movie for me were when the story was attempting to show the humanity of the people they were assassinating and the justifications for both sides of fighting. “Home is everything” says one of the men the squad kills when he is explaining to Avner the Palestinians’ fight for a place to call home (Munich).
Casual conversation, political dialogue, and family interactions may appear somewhat boring in an action and drama filled movie, however, I felt they were well placed and effective. I thoroughly enjoyed this movie and thought it was balanced enough to not appear to take sides in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that continues to this day. However, after researching what was changed, added, and left out from the real life events that occurred makes you kind of wonder if a side was chosen.
Choosing sides may only be a perspective opinion anyways depending on who it comes from. As the case with most Hollywood productions you really do not know the story until you do a little research, and even then you still may not know the truth. Munich maintained my interest long enough to keep me up past midnight after an exhausting day of work. It says a lot to me when you do not realize how long a movie was until you check the clock and realize it is way past your bedtime. I would suggest this movie to someone else; but, please, keep in mind it is fiction.