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Meditation on Retaliation and Murder

Posted February. 02, 2006 06:04,   


While the world watches the Munich Olympic Games in Germany in 1972, 11 Israeli athletes are killed by a Palestine terrorist group “Black September.” Mossad, the Israeli intelligence agency, organizes a 5-member assassin group with Avner (Eric Bana), a former secret agent of Mossad, as its leader in an attempt to kill the 11 Palestinians who are suspected to have masterminded the attack. For removing the targets, Avner becomes troubled due to guilt and questions if his action can be justified. The group members end up losing their lives one by one by an unknown organization.

The synopsis of the new Spielberg film “Munich” seems like that of an action thriller. However, Spielberg chooses to slow down the story at every critical moment instead of using the running-time economically.

The movie is devoted to describe the inefficient but human characters in great detail. The Palestinian terrorists act rashly, terrified at their own acts. Avner’s men draw lots to pick the trigger puller. Both the attackers and the retaliators all seems to be confused.

On Avner’s team are escape specialist Steve (Daniel Craig), explosive expert Robert (Mathieu Kassovitz), Carl, in charge of clearance, and Hans, a counterfeiting genius. However, they seem incongruous and confused, failing to show off their expertise in style. The sheer reality and contingency that imbue the entire movie exaggerate the cruelty of the murders and the terrorist attack as larger than life.

The movie repeatedly features the assassin group discussing murders while cooking and dining, and shows that the mastermind of the terror attack is just a family man who grudges his wife’s lecture. By doing so, the film reveals that the painful destination of the simple order, “Do them in,” is not the completion of retaliation but slaughter and nothing else.

But a question arises. “Is this self-denial version of Spielberg film what the audience want to see?”

Probably he intended the moviegoers who believed in the name Spielberg to be perplexed at the film. However, surely he did not intended that the 163-minute long movie filmed around 12 European countries to feel vaguely familiar, leaving the impression of a “ready-made” outfit, nor did he deliberately ingrained the movie with a smack of tediousness caused by its excessive length compared to the significant of its point. Some successful commercial films directors sometimes make films for themselves, not for the audience. It is important to them, no doubt, but disobliging for the audience.

“Munich” is set to release on February 9 in Korea and is rated PG-15.

Seung-Jae Lee sjda@donga.com