Thursday, January 12, 2006

Film Review - Munich

The stage seems to be set for what at first glance would appear to be one of the most politically scathing awards ceremonies in years, the 78th Annual Academy Awards presentation on the ABC television network. No, this is not due in part to the announcement that the Daily Show’s Jon Stewart will host the program. This is just another clear sign that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has truly lost touch with its core audience and have reverted to catering to the whims of sniveling television executives eager to lure younger adults, albeit for a few short moments, to contribute to their key demo-rating. It is instead the potential motion picture nominees themselves that will have everyone talking. There is director Ang Lee’s controversial gay-cowboy picture, Brokeback Mountain, a film likely to arouse (no sexual pun intended) the pro-gay marriage advocates of California’s certifiable liberal base. Here’s a puzzler – how does Ang Lee go from directing The Hulk to a romantic-drama about homosexual cowboys in Wyoming? George Clooney, perennial poster boy for the Hollywood left, has two politically controversial pictures up his sleeve – the anti-Joseph McCarthy diatribe, Good Night and Good Luck, and director Stephen Gaghan’s ‘blood for oil’ leftist pamphlet piece, Syriana. If you can’t recall who Stephen Gaghan is, he directed the Oscar nominated film, Traffic. Can’t recall Traffic either? Don’t worry, more then likely no one else can either. And what would the Academy Awards be without a tribute to the false-state of Palestine? This year the spineless Europeans honor Palestinian suicide bombers with their foreign-language contribution, Paradise Now. Yes, the same homicidal maniacs who have made the Middle East region the certifiable blood bath it is today. There is no word at this time as to whether film distributor Warner Independent Pictures has chosen to follow former-Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein’s lead and compensate families of suicide bombers. However, it appears that the most controversial of them all is director Steven Spielberg’s ‘semi-historical’ drama, Munich, a portrayal of the events following the massacre of eleven Israeli athletes at the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich, Germany. Pro-Israeli advocates, not to mention the Israeli population in general, have come down hard on the Academy Award-winning director of Schindler’s List, a tribute to the innocent victims of the Holocaust during World War II, going so far as to claim publicly that he is no longer a ‘friend of Israel’. My, how times have changed.

Saying the least about it, the story for Munich is perfect. Perfect that is in the sense that is nothing short of a flawless piece of revisionist history drawn from the pulpit of self-loathing Jews, Palestinian terrorists, and the liberal rhetoric of Hollywood elitists. Steven Spielberg’s Munich has two fundamental flaws going against it in terms of the film’s claim of historical accuracy and legitimacy. First, the George Jonas novel, Vengeance: The True Story of an Israeli Counter-Terrorist Team, on which the script is primarily based upon, has been widely discredited leaving most historical and literary critics to regard its contents as a work of complete fiction. Jonas fails to support claims by Yuval Aviv that he was the inspiration for Avner and that he participated in Mossad operations to retaliate against Palestinian terrorists involved with the Munich massacre with either interviews or public statements. Ha'aretz journalist Yossi Melman revealed that Aviv, through investigative reports, “had a special fondness for conspiracy theories, and it turned out that he was willing to hire out his services to anyone who was willing to pay”. The other tragic flaw of this film is playwright Tony Kushner, an openly gay and admittedly self-loathing Jew, who was brought in personally by director Steven Spielberg to rewrite the script originally penned by Eric Roth. Kushner has stated that the creation of the Jewish state of Israel in 1948 was a “historical, moral, political calamity” for the Jewish people and believes adamantly that the sole intent of the Israeli government is to “systematic attempt to destroy the identity of the Palestinian people”.

Lest it be forgotten, let us make one thing perfectly clear – there never was nor will there ever be a nation called Palestine. The term ‘Palestine’ is a modern word used to define the Middle East legion which prior to World War I was a loose association of Arab tribes which would eventually be placed under the yoke of Nazi imperialism during World War II. The British in 1917 promised the Jews the formation of their own nation, Israel, with the signing of the Balfour Declaration, a promise which was eventually upheld in 1948. There exists no Palestinian ‘refugee problem’ today because refugees can not exist if there is no land from which they happen to be displaced from to begin with. The disdainful Arab nations which encircle the entire nation-state of Israel refuse to take in their own so that they may be used as a prominent example of the ‘atrocities’ the Jews have committed and that Israel may forever be used as a scapegoat for their cruelty and malice.

Overall, Munich, albeit skillfully choreographed, suitably acted out, and brilliantly scored by long-time Spielberg collaborator, composer John Williams, lacks the sufficient credibility in its anti-Israel/pro-Palestinian rhetoric driven storyline to make it a truly riveting historical drama. Munich’s most glaring weakness, Kushner’s screenplay, is so extreme in its revisionist interpretation of historical events it is likely to maker even pseudo-‘documentarian’ Michael Moore blush. Frankly the film is not all bad. Spielberg went to extraordinary lengths in the short few months of its production (filming began in July 2005, days after his two-hundred million dollar blockbuster, War of the Worlds, opened in theatres) to have nearly every scene in Munich reflect the styles, the culture, and the atmospheric feel of the 1970s.

First off, much to the embarrassment of Judaism in general, Spielberg and Kushner establish a level of confusion with their own twisted sense of moral relativism when it comes to the interpretation of the specific values and principles on which the Jewish religion is founded upon, an action which is hardly surprising given their fall out from their homeland. After an all too brief scene in which the Israeli athletes in Munich are taken hostage by terrorist agents of Black September, Prime Minister of Israel Golda Meir is seen meeting with Israeli officials to construct a plan of retaliation against the Palestinians for the massacre. In this meeting she states, “Every civilization finds it necessary to negotiate compromises with its own values”, which of course is in reference to Israel’s plans to assassinate suspected members of the terrorist organization, Black September. Although Spielberg and Kushner would like it to appear as though the Jews are doing exactly that in responding to the blatant act of terrorism in Munich, this is in fact far from the truth. Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, an entertainment reporter for, in his assessment of the Spielberg picture clarifies on this issue, “The Talmud [a record of rabbinic discussions on Jewish law, ethics, customs, legends and stories] clearly establishes that one who comes to murder you must first be killed themselves. Those who have devoted their lives to killing innocent people have erased the image of God from their countenances and have therefore erased their right to life”. It is rather Christianity which advocates the concept of ‘turning the other cheek’ against your enemies and even then it does no such thing in suggesting that total submission be taken whenever a force seeks to commit harm against you or your loved ones.

The false Golda Meir, a woman who in her historical context was the Margaret Thatcher of the newly founded Jewish state, offers further words of wisdom. When an Israeli official questions how this action of retaliation against the Palestinians will corrupt efforts for peace in the region, she argues, “forget peace for now, we have to be strong”. Peace and strength, while distinctly different entities, are in no way incompatible with each other contrary to popular liberal mythology. Strength would hardly be an option had Al Gore been elected president when September 11th occurred, nor would there be peace. Terrorists, particularly al Qaeda, prey upon the indecisive, the timid, the weak and exploit peace deals and negotiation efforts to their utmost advantage as President Jimmy Carter can clearly vouch for. Any time in which Israel or the United States of America have flexed their muscles and stood up to those who seek to destroy our very way of life, only then have we gained the respect of the world. They may not like us for it, but we have garnered to respect.

In his screenplay Kushner then proceeds to scold Israel for the bombing of Palestinian ‘refugee camps’ in Syria and Lebanon four days following the Munich massacre which killed two-hundred people. And yet he fails to mention that two years earlier Jordan slaughtered ten-thousand Palestinians with the surviving refugees fleeing to the West Bank in Israel. This act was the true inspiration for the terrorist organization behind the Munich massacre, Black September.

The tragic events of the Munich massacre which took place on September 5th, 1972, are never shown in their entirety together. Rather they are spread throughout the two hour and twenty minute motion picture. Most distressing and disturbing of all, the actual slaughter of the nine remaining Israeli athletes in the midst of a failed rescue attempt by German authorities is spliced with scenes of Avner having sex with his wife. The actual climax of the massacre is Avner literally climaxing. It is here that Spielberg as a filmmaker makes his most egregious error. Rather then memorialize the unmitigated slaughter of these eleven Israeli athletes with a proper theatrical tribute he instead chooses to trivialize their deaths, shaping events to his liking so they suit his agenda. The separation of the actual massacre of the Israeli athletes from the beginning of the film drives home Spielberg’s point that ‘violence begets violence, blood begets blood’ and that the Munich massacre was merely a response to a response. Spielberg in his Judaist backpedaling fails to acknowledge what exactly the Palestinian kidnapping and murder of eleven Israeli athletes was in response to but, as with most leftist revisionist history, facts and the truth are merely an afterthought.

Furthermore, Spielberg in his depiction of historical events which soon followed the Munich massacre conspicuously leave out important details and significantly alter audience’s perceptions of the state of Israel. This includes the Arab nations at the Munich Olympics who refused to lower their flags to half-staff in light of the tragedy, essentially endorsing Black September and the terrorist attack which took place there. And let’s not forget the International Olympic Committee’s refusal to construct a permanent memorial to the eleven slain Israeli athletes out of fear of ‘offending’ those hostile to Israel. More importantly however Spielberg chooses to depict the response to the Munich massacre, in this case the assassination of eleven individuals in connection to Black September, as immediate and unrelenting when in fact it was never initialized until after October 29th, 1972, when Germany released the three surviving Black September kidnappers after a German jet carrying them was hijacked. The Germans suspiciously did this so that the three survivors would not face trial and implicate the German government, still reeling from fall out of the Holocaust during World War II, for the haphazard response.

Although it is Spielberg’s intention to place the Israeli Counter-Terrorism Team agents on the same moral footing as the Palestinian terrorists of Black September and the PLO, each group’s portrayal in the film is significantly different. Only one of the three targets the Mossad agents pursue is shown committing the loathsome acts of terrorism for which they are accused. Instead they are portrayed as either kindly old men or inoperative political activists with adorable children. The Mossad agents are not given such a luxury. They are seen basking in the deaths of those they target. They scrutinize over every dollar spent in pursuit of their objectives. And one agent’s tilted argument, “The only blood that matter to me is Jewish blood”, in response to another agent questioning the amount of collateral damage their bombs meant for their targets may cause shows them to be fideists. They are everything short of complete and utter monsters.

True, Spielberg falls short of portraying the Israeli Counter-Terrorism Team as total miscreations. For example, Avner and a fellow agent risk blowing their cover when they realize that a call received by the phone built with a remote detonator explosive placed in the target’s apartment has been answered by the target’s young daughter and alert their other team members waiting in a nearby car to abort the mission. In spite of evidence in the film to suggest that the Israeli Counter-Terrorism Team avoided as much collateral damage as physically possible, risking their lives just to confirm the identity of their target via matching photos with the suspects’ faces before they are killed, Spielberg in the end argues that these assassinations were all for naught. Since so few of the targets who were killed had direct links to the Munich massacre, though they were undoubtedly in some form or another associated with the PLO, the only contribution their deaths made was in the creation of more terrorists who were even worse then the ones Mossad eliminated in the first place. This is the same demented, twisted logic the rhetorical left uses in opposing U.S. military intervention in Iraq and Afghanistan. Their suggestion that going after terrorists for the slaughter of innocent civilians will only lead to more aggressive attacks on our own soil is laughably preposterous. They would rather have our head buried in the ground with our butts high in the air just waiting for the other shoe of Islamic fascism to come down on us rather then respond to it. Let’s get something straight here – killing terrorists does not create more terrorists. Did killing Nazis during World War II create more Nazis? Did arresting Klu Klux Klan members create more Klansmen? No, so why would it be any different in this situation? It is a tragically flawed logic; one sadly the radical left in this country seems intent on sticking to. In that case, let us no longer try and prevent murder, rape, underage sex, substance abuse, child molestation, or any crime whatsoever because apparently any effort we make to prevent such activities will only create more rapists, murderers, drug users, and terrorists, so it is best just to let it sort itself out.

This brings us to what is unquestionably the most insulting image in Munich. In the final scene of the film Avner, played by Troy’s Eric Bana, meets with Ephraim, his Mossad handler, in a park and tells him he can no longer return to Israel because it is not the moral haven it once was. As the two depart, the camera slowly pans over a 1970s New York City skyline and remains transfixed for a time on the haunting image of the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center. It does not take a genius to figure out what Spielberg and Kushner mean to suggest here. September 11th is our Munich. A response to a response – nothing more. They mean to suggest that the tragic deaths of both the eleven Israeli athletes in Munich and the nearly three thousand American citizens in NYC, Washington DC, and Pennsylvania were brought upon ourselves. Their lives should be honored, yes, but not in response against those who committed these acts of treachery. Heaven knows, why bother battling cancer if a cure has yet to be found. Better to succumb to despair and die with ‘dignity’ then fight to the bitter end and only make a dent in it. What honor is there in that? For those on the left who like the five year old children they mirror with their petty partisan squabbling who have yet to grasp the concept of sarcasm, everything!

My Rating: ** out of 5 (Grade: D+)