By Rick Eskil of the Union-Bulletin
Steven Spielberg's Munich is a grisly tale of revenge that takes us inside the world of political assassins. It's a world that's tough to stomach.
Yet, director Spielberg presents these Israeli assassins/terrorists as people. He lets us get to know them and their families. We care about the characters as people even if what they do is brutal.
And he also lets us see some of their targets as humans. That makes the killing far more painful - but the film far, far more compelling.
Munich begins at the 1972 Olympics where 11 Israeli athletes are taken hostage and murdered.
The Israeli government needs to send a message that it won't be bullied by Palestinian terrorists, but it wouldn't be prudent politically to take aggressive, overt action. So what can be done?
The Israelis put together a secret team to terrorize the terrorists. It's lead by Avner (Eric Bana), the son of an Israeli war hero who was on the prime minister's security detail. Avner seems an unlikely choice to lead an assault on terrorists.
The team members are also unlikely choices. They have experience in making bombs, fake IDs and surveillance, but they don't come off as ruthless killers.
Yet, they quickly prove they can kill. The killing, however, takes a toll on their personal lives and their souls as they become the people they are trying eliminate - they become terrorists.
The five Israelis must wallow in the world of terrorism and assassins. It's a gritty spy vs. spy life, but without the James Bond-like glitz.
Seeing this life up close is uncomfortable. It's also enthralling.
Bana, who starred in Hulk and Troy, does a terrific job here as a reluctant assassin. Just as Bana was transformed from mild-mannered David Banner into the Incredible Hulk in his previous film, he is transformed from a loving husband and father into a killing machine. What makes his performance so strong is that Bana allows us to see his mental transformation by the anguish on his face and in his eyes.
Munich isn't an easy film to watch. Then again, the world of terrorists and assassins isn't very pretty.
HOW IT RATES
Munich, rated R for strong graphic violence, some sexual content, nudity and language, is now playing at the Grand Cinemas.