The Junk Food of Writing

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Munich (Spielberg, 2005)

Hey look -- over there! I think that's where your accent went, Mr. Bana.
Another aesthetically impressive, engaging film which prompts questions we have been asked before. Begins strongly, with clever shots at the media (and their occasional inaccuracy), yet these astringent and informative moments are abandoned in favor of person confliction and subtextual overstatements.

Fundamentally, the film follows a band of fashionable and sassy assassins as they gain vindication for Israel (that’s all the summary you are getting from this capsule). Of course, there are the oh-so-convenient parallels to the current political situation – and they are handled with as much tact and subtlety as Star Wars: Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. The skillfulness of the filmmaking is not in question; this is a slick and stylish production, but it is nearly over-refined to the point of being shiny and overtly “look-at-me” (case in point: Eric Bana’s skullish facial shadow).

Eric Bana wins the 2005 award for most instantaneous and least plausible emotional response and gag reflex. His “tortured soul” is not deftly played out – it’s simply manifested in paranoia and….paleness. This obviousness is detrimental to the character’s overly apparent arc, and the audience’s ability to identify with him. Many of the ideas and themes within are backed up with weak symbolism and glossiness. It prompts imperative questions, but does not care to present them originally. Nonetheless, perhaps Spielberg should be patted on the back for presenting characters whose moral decisions are not distinctively black or white (yay for gray ambiguity!), but the message is inherently conflicting, so I’m really just glad that Spielberg did not completely destroy such thought-provoking provocations.

Unsurprisingly, the family themes are present, and every little cherub in the film is presented as a benevolent little piece of preciousness. Although it is fortunately not as mawkish as it could have easily been, the idea of “home” is also explored. After the delivery of one line as Bana talks to his wife (“You are my only home”), she acutely states, “That sounds so corny. Why did I have to marry such a sentimentalist?” This self-consciousness would have been appropriate and welcome in subsequent scenes, with Kate Capshaw popping up in the corner to point out the corniness. Similar to The Best of Youth, it is better at documenting history (although some of the exposition is sloppy) and delivering a smooth narrative than tackling “soul searching” (and it's use of "soul" is nearly as cringe-worthy as Batman Begins' unhealthy obsession with the word "fear"). Added bonus/negative: positive points for Edith Piaf -- and negative points for the excessive intercutting of killing and humping (complete with splashing water!). C+, 5.5/10


  • And yet more Spielberg... most people thought "War of the Worlds" was bad but I think it was downright pathetic. Don't know if I could handle this thing.

    By Blogger JavierAG, at 6:03 AM  

  • Javier - I hated War of the Worlds too and still found Munich worthwhile, so you could do worse.

    Nick - I'm surprised a day has come where I actually like a Spielberg film more than you! Anyways, I rather liked the build-up of the first two acts (although they had their share of problems - namely his fascination with repeatedly showing kids = innocence). I guess I was just happy to finally get a film by him that actually immersed itself in gray morality rather than good <--> bad.

    However, I'm totally with you on the lameness of Eric Bana trembling in anxiety for the entire last half hour, or the sheer badness of watching him dripping and thrusting while playing out the events Munich in his mind. Yeesh.

    By Blogger Ali, at 1:07 PM  

  • I feel really immature for this, but my dad and I constantly joke about the killing/humping bit at the end. We just say "Munich" to each other and we know what we are referring to.

    By Blogger Kathleen, at 4:46 PM  

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