“Munich”: A Horrifically Powerful Polemic

Whenever a movie’s prologue informs you that the film was “inspired” by something, you know that artistic license has been invoked and flat-out fictionalization employed. And then, more often than not, some controversy ensues. The director, it is revealed, has an agenda – only it comes with having been “inspired” in the first place.

“Munich” is no exception.

Steven Spielberg’s depiction of Israel’s assassination-team approach to avenging the Palestinian murders of Jewish Olympians is, at its core, a polemic: violence only begets more of the same. It’s ever spiraling. It’s been said before, of course, but rarely in such riveting fashion.

That powerful message transcends and trumps all other “Munich” takes, including the charge that the movie is undermined by moral equivalence, and Spielberg has hatched an anti-Israel tract. And that in so doing, he has taken too many pains to humanize Palestinians targeted by an amoral Israeli hit team with a job to do and humanity to set aside.

What Spielberg has done is to remind us – via imbedded ironies, a perversely empathetic protagonist and a compelling mastery of the action genre – that at the end of the day humanity is the net loser. Humankind has been diminished, historical and religious rationales reduced to footnote insignificance.

Perspectives are never perfect, but their consequences are determinative. Whose land? Whose history? Whose grievances? Whose holy book? Whose murderers? Whose martyrs? Whose innocents? Who’s more wrong?

Across the continuum of carnage, the questions become moot.

“Munich” should be required viewing. Alas, it won’t be seen – or if seen, meaningfully internalized – by those it could impact most.

One other point. No one has given it away, and I won’t either. But “Munich’s” final, establishing-shot scene is perfect. As in soberingly so.

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