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The International Writers Magazine: Review

Richard Parry

On the 5th September 1972, with the Summer Olympics in their second week of competition, eleven members of the Israeli athletics team were killed in what would later become known as the ‘Munich Massacre’. Thirty three years on, Steven Spielberg’s Munich was released with the following tagline... 'The world was watching in 1972 as 11 Israeli athletes were murdered at the Munich Olympics. This is the story of what happened next.'

The question is...what did happen next?

In anticipation of the films’ UK release, the BBC aired Munich: Operation Bayonet on This World; a documentary investigating the Israeli revenge mission on the Palestinian extremists Black September, in which the names of their targets are revealed.

I watched the film on DVD, including a fairly lengthy Spielberg introduction where he cools any fires of potent ideology; insisting that the film is what it is, whilst smothering his tables with papers, books and photographs; basically anything that can be classified as research.

Munich uses the real names of the targeted Black September group members, and where possible, their precise means of assassination. If the names of the Israeli assassins are correct then it is due to a remarkable coincidence as their true identities have never been released; though with names such as Steve, Carl and Robert this is highly unlikely! The use of these names, and the characters themselves, contribute to an alarming risky aspect of the film; its sense of sympathy towards the assassins. The characters appear to have been pulled from their houses and forced to carry out the mission, rather than the specifically trained hit men of reality.

Their frequent personal references to the western world began to confuse me around the final third of the film; was I watching Israelis attacking Palestinians or an American/Western attack at the middle-east? The fear of the latter was only increased when the last surviving members of the Israeli group were the America-based, Germany born leader and an Englishman!

When watching Munich it is essential not to become carried away by the developing narrative if you want to obtain some sense of historic credibility. The beginning of the film appears to be a reasonably sound portrayal of the event with the inclusion of old news footage. In many ways it could be used as an historical visual, similar to Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan, which I remember being shown at school in a history lesson. Munich after all is an action film, and a very interesting one at that. It holds more depth than many within the genre in the sense that it is thought provoking as well as intense and does not solely rely on gunfights. Munich is a respectable take on the event, though not historically accurate enough to bare its name. The temptation of over-exaggeration means that the more realistic portrayal has been created by the BBC rather than DreamWorks and Spielberg.
© Richard Parry November 2007

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