Movie review

I'd earlier vowed not to see Munich because I can't abide Steven Spielberg movies. My husband, however, had ordered it from Netflix and, when he begged me to watch it with him, I yielded. I managed to last for an hour an a half (just a little more than half the movie). Sitting down to watch the movie, I knew all about the reviews pointing out the myriad historical inaccuracies. What none of them prepared me for, though, was that the movie, qua movies, is really, really bad.

Tony Kushner may be an award winning playwright, but all I could think from the very first minutes of watching was that either standards are lower on Broadway, or he really slipped up here. His dialogue was appalling — wooden, banal, hackneyed, trite, vague, polemical, leaden and boring. Every Jewish character sounded like a bad send-up of a cheap movie about Jewish characters from Brooklyn. What this meant was that the "balanced" point of view he was trying to achieve ended up being merely laughable as the characters vanished beneath the burden of dialogue a high-schooler would be embarrassed to own up to.

Speaking of characters, blech. For me, the movie jumped the shark at about the 15 minute point when the film introduced Avner, the leader of the Israeli team assigned to hunt down the terrorists whom the world had moved beyond Israeli jurisdiction. While it would make perfect sense for Israel to chose someone nondescript (James Bond is a bit too visible), it was inconceivable that Israel would choose a neurotic schlemiel for this important mission. It became even more ridiculous when we met his "team," a collection of itches, twitches, and (with one laughable Australian exception) bad Yiddish accents. I suspect Kushner was trying to show these men's humanity, but they just looked like cowards and idiots who, by mere happenstance, managed always to get their man (and their man, terrorist though he was, was always a monument to sophisticated kindness and bravery). Aside from my ideological problems with these characterizations, it made for an unusually stupid and unbelievable movie.

The filmmaking technique also irritated me. It had a peculiar rhythm. Every time a "hit" was about to take place, a drumbeat would start, and the camera would movie, first, to the ground and point upward, then to the ceiling and point downward, and then to the side for an oblique shot. There was no tension at all — just busy camera work and that damn drum. If a movie is tense, I'm the one clutching my husband wildly, with my hands sweating and my heart beating. Watching this was like watching bread dough rise. There's a certain attenuated fascination, but I certainly wouldn't recommend it as a thrilling, interesting, enjoyable or moving activity.

Another of the movie's many failings was that Spielberg didn't bring anything out of the actors. I have to assume it was Spielberg's fault, by the way, because I refuse to believe that every single one of those actors could be so lacking in talent. No, what I have to imagine is Spielberg speaking to them at some top-secret movie meeting: "Look, this is a serious movie. In order to impress everyone with how serious it is, it is extremely important that you mumble, speak very slowly, have no affect and, if possible, make your accents (whether real or fake), sound like a Yiddish parody. That will show our audience what a great, serious filmmaker I've become."

Incidentally, to end a little credibility to my scathing disdain for this movie, let me add that my husband, a huge Spielberg fan, who stuck it out for the entire almost three hours told me I was wise to walk out on it: "It was a bad movie. I'm going to give it only two stars," he said.

Take my advice: if you've been planning on renting or buying the DVD, don't. No one should waste that much time out of their life on something this poorly made.

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  • http://ymarsakar.blogspot.com/ Ymarsakar

    Independence Day is much better.

    If people want intensity and drama, they should watch Battlestar Galactica.

  • http://ymarsakar.blogspot.com/ Ymarsakar

    Hey Bookworm, did you guys ever Watch 24? ; )

  • Zhombre

    I don’t think you were supposed to “enjoy” Munich; that would place in on the level of mere entertainment; you were supposed to be moved by its “message:” we are all human, violence begets violence, an eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind, etc. This is Serious Spielberg, not the Spielberg who makes movies that resemble theme park rides; he even enlisted a Serious Playwright to rewrite the script originally penned by Eric Roth. IMHO if you want to see overwrought drama, rent the movie version of Angels in America and watch Roy Cohn’s death scene. Camille Paglia describes Kushner’s work as “self canonizing propaganda” and I find that comment very astute.

  • Zhombre

    Correction to above: the public library probably has Angels in its DVD collection. Save your money.

  • http://arosebyname.blogspot.com Anna

    No desire to see it, so you’ve just confirmed it for me.

  • jaleach

    So you’re saying you didn’t like it?

    Seriously though, I wouldn’t watch it for the mere fact that Stevie hasn’t made a good film in years. You know he won’t throw in the towel, though.

  • http://soccerdad.baltiblogs.com soccer dad

    Was that James Bond reference intentional? You realize that one of the Israelis was played by the same guy who’s been tagged to be the next James Bond. (Who apparently is quite a klutz.)

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  • http://bookwormroom.wordpress.com/ Bookworm

    No, I didn’t realize there was cross-pollination between the new Bond and this movie. I was just thinking of classic Bond, where the actor was visible and flamboyantly suave.

  • http://ymarsakar.blogspot.com/ Ymarsakar

    Most spies and saboteurs and assassins basically are very good actors, but not like Movie Stars. Movie Stars try and get attention with their acting and theatrics, the purpose of a Special Forces agent, for example, is to blend into the population and not be recognized as anyone special.

    That is why even military friends and acquaintances that live on Fort Bragg comment that Special Forces they see on base don’t act “military”. No, they wouldn’t act “militarily” now would they, if they had to infiltrate terroist cells or foreign nations? Acting military is like acting like a cop, the criminals are going to purge you soon enough.

    I don’t think SPielberg could have portrayed an accurate portrayal of spies and infiltrators even if he wanted to. For a Hollywood actor to act “subdued” and try not to get “noticed” is probably genetically impossible.

  • Pastor Ray

    You might want to reflect on where so much hostility originates. I don’t think it was the movie. -Ray