Monday, March 06, 2006

Munich (Spielberg, 2005)

In some ways, Steven Spielberg's latest film, Munich may be the most troubling, disheartening film in his filmography. Though Schindler's List and Saving Private Ryan detail large scale barbarism, the viewer is at least left with the comfort of knowing that the Nazis were ultimately defeated and the extent of their cruelties exposed. By contrast, Munich shows us a hidden world of violence committed unofficially by likable men who use the same word to toast the arrival of a newborn child as they do the successful elimination of one of their targets. As we well know, the death toll continues to rise worldwide as men of different convictions attempt to avenge grudge upon grudge upon grudge. The goal of Spielberg's film -- to plead for sanity in a world that lacks the imagination to find non-violent solutions -- is an admirable one. Between this film and the politically-charged War of the Worlds, Spielberg has used 2005 to drastically complicate the history that will be written of him once his filmmaking days are over. Munich's greatest success is in showing the toll revenge mentality can have on those who harbor it. I also enjoyed the way in which the film showed how guns and bombs have become the new international 'dialogue'. Although Spielberg is Jewish, he depicts the violent actions taken on both sides as brutal. Though he has received criticsm from his own community, it is clear that Spielberg has made this film in the hopes that his people and others will reject being identified with the film's central characters. He does not judge these characters; rather, he handles them with compassion, understanding their rage, but hoping to guide others towards a different path. The weaknesses in Munich are slight, but it does lag on well past the point that it has effectively made its point and, for a film co-written by Tony Kushner, it does seem to be light on sharp, insightful dialogue. Still, the basic message hits hard and makes Munich a film that deserves to be seen and discussed by a large audience now and for however long humanity clings to these problems which tragically keep it from achieving its great potential.



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