Film review by: Witney Seibold



            Stephen Spielberg, after slews of callow monster flicks and powerful-but-bullishly-heroic war films, has finally made a film with some sense of moral ambiguity. All his previous films, while of varying levels of quality from cinema classic to what-was-he-thinking, all have clear-cut Bad Guys and Good Guys. By tackling a subject like the bombings at the 1972 Olympics, and the subsequent Israeli-government-sponsored revenge assassinations, Spielberg is finally delving into more meaty territory than he is used to (his War-On-Terror-like xenophobia from War of the Worlds doesn’t count). Munich is a film large in scope and complex in issue. The kind of film that is important with a capitol “I.” And, thankfully, does not have the kind of treacly Hollywood ending that we’ve come to expect from Spielberg. In fact, in light of its current-events politics (Israelis vs. Palestinians? Who knew?), I was surprised to find that the film wasn’t as ham-fisted as its description would lead one to believe (its final shot of the World Trade Centers notwithstanding).


            And yet, and yet… The film is lacking something very vital. I was indeed enraptured throughout it. I could follow the story, the characters, and even, to a degree, the murky politics of the time. I knew who was Israeli and who was Palestinian, and who would rather stay away from governments in general. The film was brilliant in the way it paralleled the deterioration of The Mission and the downfall of a single man’s psyche (the man in question being Israeli pencil-pusher Avner, played with august power by super-gorgeous Aussie Eric Bana, drool); The Mission eventually begins to lose meaning in light of its futility, and the man begins to sink irretrievably into a world of perpetual fear…


However, the filmed lacked what I can only describe as “edge.” It wasn’t sloppy enough. While it contained multiple murders, gore, violence, political rage, personal sacraments for revenge, and human frailty, it still came across as “slick.” And “slick” is not the way a film like this should be. It needs to be less professional, darker, more immediate. Just as another highly-praised political film from 2005, The Constant Gardener, didn’t have enough polish and direction, Munich had too much. Both films, while quite good, would perhaps have benefited from a director swap. Spielberg could have brought order to Gardener, while Francisco Mareilles could have mussed up Munich a bit. Spielberg needs no defense at this point as a director, but perhaps he would do well, when he is making a film of such mixed feeling and of such large scope, to abandon his usual collaborators John Williams (big, bold, and brassy) and photographer Janusz Kaminski (sweet, lush, and dreamy), and go with smaller names.


Munich is a very good film, and deserves its upcoming Oscar nominations. But it’s just not perfect.


-December 23rd, DreamWorks

Published in: on August 7, 2008 at 8:38 pm  Leave a Comment  

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