Wednesday, July 12, 2006
I don't know about you but I much prefer the darker, morally ambiguous films Spielberg makes now to those earlier goofball adventure movies. I'll gladly watch an interesting failure like A.I. over Indiana Jones Beyond the Valley of the Dolls or some flick about an angelic sock puppet from Mars with a glowing finger. Yes, I like Jaws, and I saw Jurrassic Park in the theater five times--but there's no depth to those movies. Bad shark vs. good swimmers. Evil scientist vs. common sense. Even in Schindler's List Spielberg cleaned up Schindler's less tidy characteristics to make things more easily digestible.
That Spielberg is gone. Munich makes for uncomfortable viewing because it's possible to have conflicting viewpoints about the issues raised, and Spielberg wants us to think more seriously about The War on Terror than is typical. I suspect Spielberg's elegant introduction with its explanation of his intent was due to the controversy over the film; many thought it 'humanized' terrorists (as if 'terrorists' are not humans?). Some regard questioning Israel's methods or its motives as anathema, and Munich's subtleties will escape ideologues--none of this is new or surprising.
At issue is the targeted assassination of opponents by governments; said targeted assassinations are almost always contrary to the laws of the governments who use them, so are societies justified in using this tool? Everyone has their own POV, and particularly now. Reasonable people can disagree. Spielberg doesn't beat us over the head with an opinion--the film makes no determination of Right vs. Wrong. We see what Black September did at the Munich games, we see what Mossad and Golda Meier might have set in motion. We see how 'the good guys' inevitably use the methods of 'the bad guys' once certain decisions are made, we see some terrible consequences, we see the CIA and Mossad and Palestinian and Arab revolutionary groups and the KGB all double-deal each other. And hopefully, after seeing, we can think more honestly about the sort of things going on in our name. Is killing terrorists good policy or mere revenge?
Munich won't answer the questions raised, but it raises excellent ones for our times. A brave, well-made movie that is also a rather good thriller. Eric Bana is marvelous in the lead role, and Geoffrey Rush again plays an oily Walsingham figure, this time for Mossad.