Munich: A movie that reflects Spielberg’s belief in sin.

Which mainstream film critic said THIS about Steven Spielberg’s Munich?

Today’s movie culture has so thoroughly written off the concept of sin that any movie ridiculing it (from Hellboy and My Summer of Love to Squid and the Whale) is guaranteed to be widely praised. This fondness for transgression might explain the trouble Spielberg has run into with Munich. He explicates a grievous sense of wrong-doing that communicates best to those who are open to an Ecumenical view of life (or if that term scares you, Judeo-Christian). Munich’s vision is truly Judeo-Christian in that it doesn’t confuse morality with politics. It uses one to test the other.

Surely it is the concept of sin that angers Spielberg’s current detractors. They don’t want any selfish or transgressive actions to be judged. The fact that Munich won’t settle for memorializing Israel’s revenge offends some propagandists’ self-justifying nihilism as surely as it also spoils (but enlightens) the action-movie party. Bloodseekers simply can’t get off on Munich’s complexity. Munich doesn’t arouse vengeance; it isn’t about “fairness” or even-handed allocation of blame. It’s about how retribution (eye-for-an-eye politics) unbalance the universe, how Avner unquiets his soul. Throughout his killings, Avner carries a consciousness of heritage and the weight of history; plus, a sense of justice challenged by a sense of responsibility—burdens. Miraculously, this story of mankind’s moral burden becomes the perfect summary for Spielberg’s 9/11 trilogy — the most significant event of 2005 cinema.

This is the guy who said it.

Strong language. But I think I agree with him. The farther I get from seeing Munich, the more I find myself thinking about it and wanting to see it again. I’m not sure yet if I think it’s the best film of the year, but it’s way, way up there….

My full review will be up tomorrow, if the day goes as planned.

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  • David Habecker

    I’m really eager to see this when it opens in DC later this month! As always, I appreciate hearing about films like this from you, Jeff.

  • Christian

    Beautiful. But rather than watching “Munich” again, why not revisit the other films White mentions — the ones you didn’t like so much? Because I don’t know how you can take the “Munich” part of White’s argument and separate it from his larger point about Speilberg’s 9/11 trilogy.

    White is the only critic I’ve seen mention this (have I missed it elsewhere?), and it’s EXACTLY why “The Terminal” and “War of the Worlds” are near the top of my year-end best lists for 2004 and 2005. Our greatest filmmaker has turned his attention to the greatest moral issue of the 21st century, and by focusing on themes of alienation, mass chaos, and the effects of retaliation, he’s put together three amazing pieces and produced something in sum that surpasses each individual part.

    Crazy thing is, I’m not sure if he’s finished yet. But I can’t think of a better person to tackle the post-9/11 environment through film.

  • Peter T Chattaway

    Of course, one of the reasons Munich is so controversial is because it does suggest that the killing of Palestinian terrorists 30 years ago — and, by extension, the killing of terrorists today — is merely a form of “retribution” and not a strategic or tactical necessity.

    You know the scene where Avner’s team shares a safe house with some Arab terrorists, only a few days after that raid in Beirut? In Vengeance, the book on which this film is based, it is said that Avner and his team were encouraged to hear that the Arabs were spooked by the Israeli success; fighting back, it seemed, was having at least some sort of positive effect. But in Munich, there is no sign of this; if anything, the conversation between Avner and the Palestinian goes the other way.

    The question posed by both book and film is whether fighting back does any good. The book seems to say yes, because the only alternative is giving up and letting yourself be defeated; indeed, the final sentence of the book says, “Ultimately both the morality and the usefulness of resisting terror are contained in the uselessness and immorality of not resisting it.” The film, on the other hand, seems to say no — and I think the film errs if its critique is rooted in the notion that fighting back is merely a form of “revenge”.

    For whatever that’s worth.

    I do agree, though, that Spielberg is unusually concerned, for a Hollywood director, with questions of sin and “righteousness”. I remember being rather surprised by one character’s use of the word “righteousness” — and in a positive way! — in Amistad several years ago. Hearing that word again in Munich was interesting.


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