Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Munich: Movie Review

I have been trying to catch up on what everyone has been saying over the last week while I was away. I have seen several reviews on the movie Munich. None of which seem to get the same thing out of the movie that I did. Most of the reviews believe that the movie blurs the lines between good and evil to much.

Perhaps Americans have grown to accustomed to Hollywood's idea of good and evil. I believe that Spielberg has portrayed, not only a very definitive line between good and evil, but one of the most realistic delineations in recent history.

The story is about an Israeli man who is recruited by the government to track down and kill the suspected masterminds behind the 1972 massacre of the Israeli Olympic team. The rationale is a mix of revenge and protection of the Jews from Palestinian terrorists.

Throughout the movie, the main character is conflicted in his task. He is sent to hunt down and kill. It is at this point, I think most of the movies nay sayers miss the point.

This moral equivalency thing has to stop now. Terrorists are not on the same moral plane as those who kill terrorists!!!! This movie tries to achieve this unholy equation by potraying the terrorists as complicated human beings who are no different from anyone else.

This first commenter seems to think that terrorist are somehow formed from an ethos. No mother, no father, they just sprang forth from the dirt with a shoulder fired rocket in their hands. They don't have wives and children. They don't eat and sleep. They are just robots in a room that are tasked to do one, and only one thing... Kill Jews. This, of course is not the case. We strive to believe that is true. It makes it easier to combat an enemy that is not, in all trappings, just like us. But there are, regardless of what you may want to think. They may be evil, but they do not live in a cave. Reality, no matter how much we want to believe otherwise, will often conflict with necessity and our own morals.

What a piece of crap. To attempt to show a moral equivalence between the terrorists who killed innocent Israelis and the Mossad agents that assasinated them is beyond one's comprehension.

Again, like the first commenter, this commenter missed the point. Spielberg does not make a moral equivalence. In fact, he does the exact opposite. And, this is where I think most Americans have been too conditioned from Hollywood. The difference between good and evil in reality is not like an old western or a Rambo movie. The good guys don't where white and the bad guys don't wear black. Evil, like good, does not exist in a vacume.

In Munich, Spielberg gives the Palestinian terrorists a face. But that does not create good out of an anonymous enemy. The difference that Spielberg creates between good and evil is more real and more true.

First, as the above commenter missed, the terrorist does give a rationale for his deeds. But, Hitler gave rationale for his deeds. Manson gave rationale for his deeds. Every monster in history can give rationale for causing evil. Measuring rationale against morals is completely different.

Second, the terrorist do not show confliction for their deeds.

This is how Spielberg does such a good job of delineating good from evil. The main Jewish characters show both remorse and confliction for what they are doing. This is the line between good and evil when evil is committed. Four men are sent to do a job. That job is an evil task. It was a justified task, but none-the-less, an evil one. Killing, no matter how justified or necessary, is never "good." An eye for an eye is a justification, not a furtherance of good.

An evil job is easily done by an evil person.

An evil job is never done easily by a good person.

Thus lies the difference between good and evil when the task at hand is evil itself. Even when the good are forced to commit justified evil, the good will question. The evil will just do. In the movie, the Palistinians justified their actions as a desire for a homeland, but the means are never questioned.

Spielberg even goes further into showing the difference between a "good society" and and "evil society." The fact that the Israeli government debated and questioned their own deeds. A good society is one that hesitates and asks questions of its deeds. It wants to balance its own morals against the needs of protection and revenge. Sometimes necessity will require evil acts, but the good should never enjoy it.

So, in conclusion, I think it is a must see movie. And if you go see it, remember that good and evil are more than black and white hats.

Update: this is a good article in the Jerusalem Post on the movie: Steven Spielberg's unforgivable 'sin'

H/T The Last Amazon


Pedro said...


I definitely want to see this movie, especially after reading your post. I admit I was a little worried by the "moral equivalence" issue, but only based on the stuff I'd read. I think that, too often, we mistake relativism and shades-of-gray moral reasoning for sophistication and intelligence. While 90% of complex issues are definitely...well...complex, I do believe that there are some absolutes and that we do ourselves and our communities a disservice by reflexively seeking out the grayscale in EVERY moral consideration. Often, I think we complicate what should be clear, and subject ourselves to these debates more out of a misguided drive to demonstrate our own worldliness and sensitivity (in contrast to the less-enlightened among us) than due to a genuine desire to "understand."

However, I deeply appreciate your analysis of the movie and its surrounding babble. I agree that an evil person commits evil easily, while a good person does so (and should!) with some reservations. (In fact, that's one of the standards I use when judging the questionable actions of the US military vs. the insurgents in Iraq.) Understanding Spielberg and his past movies (especially Private Ryan and Schindler, I have to believe that you've got it correct -- that Spielberg's intent is closer to what you eloquently explain in this post rather than just another standard "moral equivalence" screed that I might hear from the self-appointed morality police at my university in their tired monthly anti-Israel speeches and rallies.

Israel, like racism or the "war on Christmas," is one of those things to which some people are simply overly sensitive, and are liable to get all huffy and impassioned and worked up about whenever somebody presents them with a calm and reasoned approach that eschews easy emotionalizing of the issue. It's always easier to be paranoid and suspicious than rational and fair when it comes to most difficult issues. I look forward to seeing the movie.

Dingo said...

well thanks for the feed back. Let me know if you agree or disagree with my thoughts once you have seen it

tommy said...

I haven't seen the movie and most likely won't, it's just in a genre that I don't generally pay money to watch. But it does bring to light a certain problem with artistic interpretations of current events. It's difficult, maybe even impossible, to cover them accurately or without some degree of opposition to however it was done showing up since the players, or those very close to the players, are still around and are going to toss stones in the direction of the effort. Besides real life, even very interesting real life, is generally too boring to make a decent book, much less a movie.

It doesn't help that the average person is unable, or more likely uninterested in sorting out fact from fiction.

Sigmund, Carl and Alfred said...

I stand by remarks- that Spielberg, no matter how well meaning, attempts to distinguish between evil and the response to it.

Of course it is true that every monster rationalizes his actions.

That said, we cannot separate the evil doer from the evil itself. This isn't about crime gone mad- this is about evil, evil people who support and condone that evil and those who would deny that evil- and use it it as a justification for more evil.

There are schools, mosques and media that preach evil every single day. There is no eqyuivalence, moral or otherwise, to anything resembling civilized society.

Dingo said...

But there in lies the point, Siggy. The film was not separating the evil done from the evil person, but the evil done from a good person or the good society.

The delineation that you are missing is not between the acts of the terrorists and the Mossad agents. Both acts are evil. You can never say that killing is good. It can be necessary. It can be justified, but it can never be good.

The movie is about the difference between a good person doing evil and an evil person doing evil. That is what you are missing. You are trying to reclassify assassination as good. It is not. That is the moral relativism going on. You are too focused on the events and not the people.

an evil person can do good. I good person can do evil. But compare the people, not the events.

Dingo said...

BTW Siggy, my understanding that the book, "Vengence" Avner and the team did have doubts about the job.

Is it better to play editor or the story for political reasons or to tell the story most true to their own words?

Sigmund, Carl and Alfred said...

"Both acts are evil."

That is where we disagree. That the Avner character questions himself is irrelevant.

The fact remains that evil must be eradicated, period.

Also (I'll have to find the article), some of the participants in ReaLife roundly criticised the film.

kateland_62 said...

Dingo, I really am relieved that I found your review. I was really starting to believe that I saw a different Munich from every other reviewer, blogger and their momma. After watching the film I could not buy into the idea that Spielberg created a moral equivalence between the Palestinian/Israelis in Munich. No doubt that means my membership in the VRWC is now null and void.

Dingo said...

Siggy, spend a year or two hunting and assasinating people, justified or not, and tell me killing is "good."

And if you mean by - "Avner's character questioning himself is irrelevant" - to mean that Avner's character questioning himself is one of the most relevant issues in the entire movie, than yes, I agree, it is relevant.


Thanks for the link to the Jerusalem Post. Like you, I thought I was one of the few who saw the movie that way. I know a few others who saw the movie the same way as we did. Others can't seem to get the idea that the struggle between good and evil is as much internal as it is external.