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Index of 2006

An Inconvenient Truth
Big Bad Swim
Brokeback Mountain
Cinderella Man
The Departed
The DaVinci Code
Eron: The Smartest
Guys in the Room

Good Night and
Good Luck

Half Nelson
History of Violence
Hotel Rwanda
Little Miss Sunshine
Journey from the Fall
March of the Penguins
Million Dollar Baby
Prairie Home Companion
Star Wars III:
Revenge of the Sith

Thank You for Smoking
The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada
The Sea Inside
United 93
War of the Worlds
Walk the Line
World Trade Center

a review by Anne Lythgoe, OP
editor, Dominican Life

Film Synopsis
Set in the aftermath of the massacre of 11 Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics, story follows a secret Israeli squad assigned to track down and kill the 11 Palestinians suspected to have planned the Munich attack--and the personal toll this mission of revenge takes on the team and the man who led it.

MPAA Rating: R for strong graphic violence, some sexual content, nudity and language.

Does acting like terrorists justify efforts to defeat terrorism?

This is the central question left hanging in the air in Steven Spielberg's Munich. Spielberg directs this violent and harsh film that follows a group of five Israeli Mossad operatives assigned the task of taking revenge for the slaughter of Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics. The violence and mayhem created by these men is difficult to witness. I frequently diverted my eyes from the screen.

Clearly they begin with a mission that seems like an urgent and measured response to what was a horrible and mindless attack by Palestinians. In an interview, Spielberg says that this film is meant "to honor what happened to those athletes so that their memory will not be lost." This is the central premise of his film Shindler's List, that remembrance is a form of salvation.

For me, the film raises lots of questions about vengence and the rule of law among nations. The players in this film all believe in the righteousness of their cause. The Palestinians deserve a homeland and will do anything to obtain it, thus, the attack in Munich. The Israelis deserve a homeland and will to anything to retain it. Thus, the irreconcilable conflict that has been waged for years. I don't think the film answers questions as much as it raises questions about how far a nation can go to protect its citizens. The reality of our world is that when a country responds (even justifiably) to violence as a way to eliminate an enemy, the result is only a deepening of the conflict and a spiralling down of civilization. Munich demonstrates this reality in vivid detail.

Avner, the main character ((Eric Bana) was a puzzle to me. He accepts the assignment without the audience having any real insight into who he is. In a few scenes his family life seems normal. At one point his co-conspirators toast the birth of his new son. But he seems to remains inwardly ambiguous toward his mission and in the end is deeply disturbed by guilt and inner conflict over his life. The film offers him no redemption other than to make a choice to keep his family intact and to remain outside of his homeland.

Spielberg attempts to stir discussion of the appropriate response to terrorism. In an interview he says that he did not want to demonize the targets. Real people exist on both sides of these issues. But I don't think the film examined both sides of the conflict equally. The Palestinian voice is barely audible.

If the acceptable response to violence is to revenge a death and the perpetrator is replaced over and over again by people more violent than before, then where does it end? How does a nation protect itself from attack and create conditions for peace at the same time? No obvious answers here.

Munich raises lots of questions: can any nation be justified in a war on terror if there is no real attempt at a solution to the roots of terrorism? The question of a safe homeland for both Israel and Palestine has been lost in the spiraling violence on both sides. What do terrorists really want? The destruction of their enemies or a better life than they presently have? When does a response to terrorism change us into terrorists?

In two instances, Israeli operatives raise the question of righteousness within the faith tradition of Judaism. One of the five, the Belgian toymaker Robert (Mathieu Kassovitz), who tinkers in explosives, drops out of the mission because he cannot see how it accomplishes a sense of righteousness inherent in Jewish Tradition. He leaves because he cannot answer the question for himself. What does righteousness mean in this society now, for Christians, for Jews?

In the film, Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir says, "Every civilization finds it necessary to negotiate compromises with its own values." This compromise of values is at the heart of the question. When do we sit down with our enemies and find an alternative to violence? What conditions need to be present so that each side can see the humanity of the other? Can we expect that violence will bring an end to violence? What gives a nation the right to decide who is guilty and then exact revenge?

Clearly, this film offers the Israeli side of the story, one that needs to be told and Spielberg is the one to tell it. But had more effort been made to give the Palestinian a voice in the film, perhaps the film would have offered more insight into how violence could be averted and enemies could see each other as human beings. I don't think even the great Steven Speilberg could manage that miracle.


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Web Editor: Anne Lythgoe, OP

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