| The Red Right Hand
During the 1972 Olympic games (hosted in Munich, Germany) the Israeli team were held hostage in their room, before being lead to the airport where they were executed. Filmed with an interesting use of flashbacks this film tracks the events following the incident. After the news reports, we are introduced to Avner [Bana] - a bodyguard and the son of a national hero. He has been called up by his country to find and erase those responsible for the events in Munich. Following his meeting with the Prime Minister [Golda Meir played by Lynn Cohen], Avner meets Ephraim [Rush], the only member of his Government he will have contact with over the course of his mission. Ephraim explains the importance of Avner's task, how he will be funded and who he will be working with. Avner - unable to tell his 7-month-pregnant wife where he's going or what he's doing - sets off to meet the four men he has been assigned to work with; Steve [Craig] the car expert, Carl [Hinds] the cleaner, Robert [Mathieu Kassovitz] the bomb-maker and Hans [Hanns Zischler] the document forger. The cast hired to play these men are as diverse as the characters themselves: Bana - Australian, Craig - English, Hinds - Irish, Kassovitz - French and Zischler - German.
Having built up a relationship with a contact in Paris, Louis [Mathieu Amalric], the five men set about the task of locating and killing the men on their list - supposed members of the terrorist group Black September. The first is simply followed and gunned down in his apartment building, in Italy. As the majority of our group drive away, Carl makes an entrance and begins removing evidence that they were there - bullet shell, footprints and anything else left behind. As Avner works his way down the list he feels less concerned for the consequences of his actions, yet more distanced from his wife and daughter. A wonderfully acted paranoia begins to grow in Avner, as he realises he is now being targeted from all sides. Tearing up his bedroom, sleeping in the closet, gun in hand; it becomes clear that this is taking more of a toll on our leads than they are allowing each other to see.
Oddly enough, although it may appear that Spielberg has taken one side over the other (namely Israel over Palestine), refusing to show the suffering of the Palestinians, he hasn't. Furthermore, by taking neither side he has in fact justified both. Considering that this is an ongoing effect that can be felt throughout the world - when one terrorist falls, 6 or 7 more appear, each more violent than their predecessor - it's a dangerous topic to deal with. How can you say one side is guilty and one is innocent? After all, this isn't Schindler's List, there is no clear villain. In typical cinematic style, Spielberg has presented all the evidence of his research and shown as much as he can whilst sitting on the fence. This feels a little too open at the end, as Avner says, "There is no peace at the end of this." True, but as an audience, we want to know who was responsible for what and if/how they paid for their crimes. Then you fall into the pitfall that what Avner is doing is merely retaliation for what was done to him - a justification that Black September claimed - so we can't place the blame. This film's plot is far too politically involved to actually unearth anything of real global effect and is more the significant change in the unattached men that Governments send to deliver 'justice.' Another fault was the language barrier. In classic American style, the film is shown in English, with a word or two in a foreign tongue. This can become so confusing when people of different nations come together and only a handful understand what's being said, you begin to frown and ask, what language are they speaking in at the minute? You remind yourself it's English but that you don't really need to know if it's Greek, Italian or French because you don't understand any of them - which is fair enough.
The real peak of this film comes about two or three times, with the various assassinations of the marked men. Nail biting, absorbing, gripping and thrilling; this is 'Action Spielberg' at his best. Followed closely with the torture these men put themselves through over what they have done or are planning to do. An exquisite example of Spielberg's character development, cinematic style and true genius. However, as with many Spielberg productions, the story-telling seems perfect until about midway, this is usually where it loses it's steam and either grinds to a slow halt or ends abruptly; Munich is the former. This film is far too long and should have ended a good half-an-hour before it did. I'm not saying the things shown didn't need to be, just that with such a fast-paced start, the story winds down sooner than expected, so you feel there's nowhere else to go - even though there's another twenty minutes of celluloid to cover. This film is truly haunting and really makes you question the nature of national retaliation. It's not a movie that shows you the evidence or truths per se, yet it gives you something to think about and discuss; you could easily sit for a good hour after this film pulling apart the plot and characters, attempting to categorise protagonists and antagonists.
27th January 2006
The Scene To Look Out For:
Of all the things Avner has been asked to do, the first sign of real emotion shines through when he calls his wife and daughter from Europe. On hearing his daughter call out to him, he begins to sob and cry. Powerful and moving; a credit to Bana.
Carl is not only Avner's counsel and conscience, he also represents experience - a past which we never learn about, giving him an air of mystery that's marvellously delivered by Hinds.
"We are tragic men. Butcher's hands, gentle souls."
In A Few Words:
"This film depicts the harsh nature of Governments lashing out at the actions of fanatical men and raises some interesting questions, most of which go unanswered."