ZenPundit
Sunday, June 25, 2006
 
MUNICH



Watched Steven Spielberg's Munich last night.

What struck me most was the amateurish, almost primitive, level of the terrorists and the Israeli deep undercover assassins who hunted them down. The fanatical nihilism of today, present in terrorists like Zarqawi, was absent in the Black September hostage takers. We view them as bad men or enemies but as understandable ones and not as incomprehensible aliens.

Also missing was the cool, high-tech, hypertrained, professionalism of modern counterterrrorism units. Things are figured out on the fly, bombs are jerry-rigged from WWII surplus, basic tradecraft (in terms of espionage, mission security) are ignored. For example, after Avner is approached by an attractive "swallow" in a hotel bar and realizes that his group's cover is blown, instead of getting everybody out of the hotel and disappearing, he lets one of his team members go hang with her while he goes to his room and places a direct call to the apartment in New York where he is hiding his wife and child. Not something I wager many intelligence or counterterrorism agents would do today.

I cannot vouch for the accuracy of the film, which has been criticized by former members of both Black September and the Mossad but it is dubious that Spielberg could have satisfied both sides in the Israeli-Palestinian dispute plus neutral historians and still produced a watchable, entertaining, film. I give it...three stars !
 
Comments:
It was my favorite movie of the year. By not picking sides and by telling the story from a neutral perspective, you feel the tragic underpinnings of the conflict. And it's so juicy and real.
 
Hi Mark,

I saw Munich in the movie theatre when it first cme out a few months ago. I agree with your review only I would rate the movie a little higher maybe 3.25 stars. I won't give it away, but the last scene was creepy. The last shot was good. What I think Spielberg was aiming at - more than historical accuracy - was the feeling of men hunting down terrorists for their country. You could tell how the anti-terrorist group all different views and motivations and how the group ultimately fell apart due to physically and (more importantly) phychologically. I saw the movie more as a metaphor for the greater struggle than as an accurate representation of the events. As far as the competence of the terrorists and the hunters, like you said, the events happened back in the 70s when some of the tactics (for both groups) were in their infancy. Even today both terrorists and CT units still make some tactical mistakes (the terrorist make more, but they don't have to be right all the time...we do). Chaos is as alive today as it was in the 70s and it still affects all players in the battlespace. The other thing that the movie sort of illustrates is the fact that the majority of the battles in this type of war are not fought by large armies in open battlefields, but by small groups in a shadowy and urban or suburban environments (very human intel-driven, police investigation-type work...except there's no judge at the end of the process, just a bullet to your head or you get blown up by a bomb). Other than the last scene, I did not understand why the Israeli government wanted to keep a secret that they were involved in killing the terrorists. I think part of the whole effect is to send a message to the terrorists saying: "we'll hunt you down and kill you, no matter where you hide". Golda Meier understood politics more than I'll ever do, so maybe I missed that part.
 
Hi guys,

Yes, the realism was definitely there for me too - it didn't seem like a nearly three hour movie at all.

Sonny wrote:

" I did not understand why the Israeli government wanted to keep a secret that they were involved in killing the terrorists"

Not a secret but legally deniable secret.

Sending your government personnel into a third country to break their laws and kill people is a very serious violation of their sovereignty. If it became known it could cause a rupture in diplomatic relations or, hypothetically speaking, a war. Hence the rigamarole about resigning from the Mossad.

Were the Israelis aught by Surete or German police or whomever, then the team was nothing more than private vigilantees for whom the state of Israel bore no diplomatic or legal responsibility.

Malarkey of course. Every great power though is politically happier for the plausible deniability. Prevented a lot of East-West blow-ups during the Cold War
 
Mark,

I get it now. The part about going to a third country to kill enemies without authorization form the "host nation" just kind of slipped by me. Inexcusable. It's a good thing I am not the President. The lawyers would (sort of) keep me in check though.
 
And if the lawyers fail to keep me in check, the NYT will be there to reveal my sensitive intel programs, so we are all good.
 
Maybe I'm overthinking this - how many stars are these ratings out of?

Great movie btw, you should pick up Syriana too.
 
Ha ! They were out of Syriana ! Good call.

Ummm...out of four !
 
Shloky,

My 3.25 rating is out of 4. I am tempted to give it a 3.5. That's like really fresh in my personal Tomatometer.

I concur with Shloky on Syriana. I recommend watching Syriana. Not a movie to watch with distractions though. I rate Syriana up there with Munich (in the 3.25 - 3.50 range).
 
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