Munich (2005) {spoiler alert}

Munich is an epic movie that keeps you on the edge of your seat for three hours, as much with the story as with Eric Bana’s compelling performance as Avner Kaufmann. And I was ignorant of how big a movie it was when I watched it so I did not have any preformed impressions and wasn’t intimidated by the fact that it is a Steven Spielberg classic. I just sat up, eyes glued to the screen for every second of the movie, mind whirring with the many events and story developments taking place at a binding pace. You just cannot take your eyes off the screen for even a moment.
Now that I know this is a Spielberg movie, my mind is continually making comparisons with Saving Private Ryan because both involve men fighting for their country. While there wasn’t any patriotic fervour in Ryan, in Munich, Avner undertakes the orders out of a sense of duty to his motherland – avenging the murder of 11 Israelis at 1972 Munich Olympics and because he is a Jew, fighting the Arabs. He is a smart and very capable agent, determined to kill the 11 men he is been told to. He does not question it at the outset and he does his job well one by one.

Avner is not a killer though and the first messy killing where they use guns shows his hesistancy with them. He has a child on the way and a Jewish wife and parents. Avner is a family man. But with this mission, we are seeing his transformation to an assassin – a killer

At first, it goes well especially with the entrance of Louis, who we never really know who he works for. Avner passes himself off as a German, Strosch, paying exorbitant sums for the names and locations of his targets.

He has been given four men to work with and okay, wow, Daniel Craig. Okay, I had a fan moment there. But he is really fine. I only know him older and bigger as James Bond but honestly, this young Craig is beautiful and breathtaking and I’m veering off topic talking about Daniel Craig’s beauty but it hit me like a truck so I had to give it its own paragraph.

Each of the men, like Avner, are secret agents on their own. Independent secret agents? Well, it is understandable that the Israeli government won’t have anything to do “officially” with the killings – basic secret agent stuff – and it later becomes important because this group of five is not just going to kill people they are ordered to but also kill people they think they should. Killers going off script – food for thought. They are killing replacements and taking revenge. Does this cross some line? 

They are taking care not to injure any innocent people though. I like that they go to such lengths to protect the innocent. The time when Avner puts himself on line taking a room next to the target – unnecessary risk taking? An attack of conscience? 

The next set of killings take them to Beirut – off course from their original plan of remaining in Europe. The Israeli government is getting involved.

Avner meets Louis’ family.

The generational difference in response to Avner was interesting. I haven’t done any research on the movie yet so I have no idea or opinion who Louis and his family are working for or how they come by their information. Why does Louis’ Papa want to meet Avner? Warning? Threat? Judge what kind of man he is? Questions, questions.

The secret agents/assassins undertake the first killing not on list because of Louis’ suggestion. If Louis is not working for Mossad, then this is the point where Avner is deciding who to kill. If Louis is being given pointers by Mossad, then this is a very tricky setting in Athens – the five are holed up in a safe house in Athens with Arabs. That little moment when Steve (Daniel Craig) and the Arab reach a decision on the radio channel made me smile.

Till now, there isn’t an obvious insight into Avner’s reasons to kill but his conversation with Ali shows that he is a zealot like the Arabs. The Arabs and the Jews have been fighting forever. And the views of these two men show that it is not going to stop any time soon. 

The off course killing ends up involving KGB as well as Europe now.

What does Europe have to think of these killings though? The response comes from the Arabs in terms of envelope bombs to Israeli embassies. But who is hunting for Avner and Co. now? Europeans? KGB? 

Because things are becoming more grusome. The killers have become part of the web and they are not just hunting – they are being hunted. This was a very thrilling turn. Will Avner pay for his killings? Will his family? He was just a family man who was taking revenge for his country. Now it has become much more complex.
I like how the Munich hostage situation is revealed in bits every time Avner is overwrought because of his work. He keeps thinking of it and of why he is doing this job. Learning about it from the news and watching it through Avner’s mind is completely different.

Avner’s partners start dying. The reluctant and careful Carl is surprisingly the first to go – and that, too, because of a honey trap: ironies of human nature. I thought over and over about Carl’s assessment of Avner’s character but I’m not sure I understand it completely. So Avner is someone who can do anything his country asks of him but he needs to keep running? What does that imply? That Avner needs to keep killing to maintain his sanity? That eventually everything is going to catch up with him is true. 

And that is an agonising but gripping part of the movie. Avner is a killer. He is hailed as a hero in Israel but he is also being hunted because that is the web he stepped into. He has planted bombs in beds and telephones and TVs and he is losing his mind because he knows they are out to get him.

Steve has no qualms about killing. He even wants to do it with a gun. I would have liked to know if he has an Avner-like reaction to being hunted.

They eventually aim for Salameh, the Black September mastermind, but fail. They kill a kid in their panic.

Avner goes to Israel. 

Avner is a hero in Israel but he is unhappy. The questioning is interesting. 

Avner isn’t shown interacting with his father but his mother is interesting. She is proud of her son knowing that he is a killer because he avenged the murder of her Jewish family. Avner goes home to Brooklyn, back to his wife and daughter. But he can’t sleep and is paranoid about being killed and his family being hurt.

Why does Louis’ Papa call Avner? To warn him that someone is out to get him? Will he protect him by not letting his whereabouts or identity being known? Did he develop a real attachment for Avner? 

It drives Avner to scream at his own embassy in New York. The Israeli official who had questioned him refuses his offer to dinner and to ‘break bread together’ even after telling Avner all sorts of things about home and Jewish heritage and asking Avner to return. His words become empty and hypocritical with this reaction.

Avner risked his life and became a killer for a country he doesn’t even want to go back to anymore. It stands in stark contrast with the beginning where Avner set out to work for his country with a belief.

Being a killer has changed Avner into someone who doesn’t believe in the ideal of his country anymore. 

I loved the soundtrack. Eric Bana gave an amazing performance.


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