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Munich balances facts with fiction

Leigh Cooney | Interrobang | Lifestyles | February 13th, 2006

In 1984, a young Israeli named Yuval Aviv teamed up with the Canadian George Jonas, a budding journalist. Aviv claimed to be a freshly defrocked Mossad assassin with a tale to tell. Together they wrote a book entitled Vengeance; a detailed account of Israel's response to the Black September terrorist attack during the 1972 Olympics in Munich, Germany. This book was later adapted into a movie called Sword of Gideon and made the pair a substantial amount of money. Some twenty years later the book was adapted again.

Directed by Steven Spielberg, and with a screenplay by Tony Kushner (Angels in America) and Eric Roth (Forrest Gump), Munich is one of the strongest films of the year and will no doubt entice comparison to Spielberg's other period masterpiece, Schindler's List.

After covering the entire attack at the Munich Olympics in the first 15 minutes, we cut to Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir (Lynn Cohen) saying to forget peace for now. Israel must show the world it is strong. Enter Avner (Eric Bana), who is recruited for a mission which may not allow him to return to Israel for years.

Reminded of how dangerous the mission is, he still asks no questions. Married with a child on the way, Avner accepts the mission. As explained by Ephraim (Geoffrey Rush), a Mossad case officer, the mission is to execute 11 Palestinians who had a hand in planning the Munich kidnapping plot. Working with four others, including a clean-up man, explosives expert, forger, and wheelman, Avner and his team officially don't exist.

Munich shows what versatility Spielberg has as a filmmaker. He is able to create entertaining popcorn flicks like War of the Worlds, but can turn around and create a mature, often sickeningly realistic film like this. The violence is graphic and will prove unsettling for some viewers. The film meets and exceeds the label of traditional thriller, but works much better as a character study.

After killing the first man on their list, they celebrate with drinks and dancing. As the film progresses, each member begins to show their weariness. In a particularly vivid scene, Avner succumbs to paranoia and tears his bedroom apart for signs that someone might be trying to kill him.

The troubling question emerging from the film is whether there should be an obligation to historical accuracy in a work of art that portrays real-life figures such as Golda Meir and uses documentary footage to support its thesis. I believe that the answer is yes, however according to the research of more then one group, it is apparent that Munich may be full of holes that were deliberately ignored during production.

So although you should definitely see this picture, ignore the “inspired by real events” tag, and enjoy it for what it is, a brilliant political suspense film. Then go home, research the subject and come to your own conclusions. As a citizen of this planet, it's your duty.
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