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A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this movie isn't for kids. It deals with difficult ethical, political, and emotional issues, including terrorism, assassination, national identity, and personal responsibility. The film includes graphic violence: a fast-cut, swish-panny reenactment of the 1972 Black September assault on the Israeli athletes in their Olympic Village apartment, TV footage from that standoff, with cuts to tearful viewers (this ordeal serves as flashback material throughout the film). The assassinations portion includes images of explosions; shootings (mostly at close range, one sniper shot as well, resulting in a bloody head); dismembered limbs; bloody bodies; brain matter; a dead woman's exposed breasts and crotch. Characters drink and smoke. One man is left naked and dead following his night with a seeming prostitute (she's a paid assassin); a scene where the protagonist makes love to his wife is intercut with the murders of nine Israeli athletes at the Munich airport.
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What's the story?
MUNICH opens with Black September's assault on 11 Israeli athletes at the 1972 Olympic Games. As this was one of the first terrorist events to make use of the "world stage" provided by television cameras, the sequence includes footage from ABC sports and shots of TV viewers in shock. Following this introduction, Steven Spielberg's film tracks (and fictionalizes) the assassinations carried out by a team simultaneously assembled and disavowed by Golda Meir's (Lynn Cohen) government. In the face of such calculated horrors, she asserts, "Every civilization finds it necessary to negotiate compromises with its own values." Compromising with values is the key dilemma for Avner (Eric Bana), the Mossad agent and Meier's sometime bodyguard whom she assigns to lead the assassins; provided a list of names "associated with Munich," by Ephraim (Geoffrey Rush), the team locates and kills them one by one.
Is it any good?
Munich is powerful, appropriately disturbing, and beautifully shot by Janusz Kaminski. It's also laced through with suspenseful Spielberian set pieces, including the child-in-danger number (a target's daughter answers the phone rigged with a bomb), the revelation-of-costs (in a hotel when a bomb explodes, Avner sees the resulting fear in survivors as well as bloody body parts, and the father-figure number, in which an ideologically neutral and frankly menacing French contact called only "Papa" (Michael Lonsdale) supplies the group with target locations but also sells information to highest bidders.
Home, tribe, and family seem to be the values by which Avner measures the worth of his duty. And yet, the film contends, the efforts to define home by endless cycles of aggression can never succeed. Increasingly paranoid that the Israelis must kill him to keep their part in the murders secret, Avner meets with Ephraim against a backdrop of the Twin Towers. Ephraim assures him, "You killed them for Munich... for the future... for peace." None of these terms means what it once did.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the justifications for vengeance. When does it ever make sense, and for whom? Is it possible to put an end to the cycles of revenge and terror? While the film has drawn some criticism for questioning Israeli counterterrorism tactics, how does it argue against terrorism and endless wars more broadly, as these traumatize soldiers and survivors even as they destroy victims? What challenges and decisions did the filmmaker face in portraying both sides of the story?
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