Thursday, January 12, 2006

Our Enemies Our Selves


A Movie Review

Yesterday I went to see my first movie at a relatively new theater here in the valley. While Edwards 21 is a bright and gaudy place, The Majestic is darker and old school almost reminiscent of a train or railway station. This change in theater tone was appropriate given the motion picture I went to see, Steven Spielbergs Munich. Now a moral lesson in a Spielberg film is nothing new, he has long given those though typically the lessons he imparts focus on pretty uncontroversal moral declarations such as, racism bad, genocide bad, being stuck in an airport for almost a year bad. The lessons that Munich imparts are perhaps less direct and more difficult to take in a post 9/11 world.

Eric Bana is an actor I had never paid much attention to, but after his performance as Avner in this film that may change. Avner is the son of an Isreali war hero, who is serving in a low impact military job and has a 7 month pregnant wife at the beginning of the film. The opening sequences of the movie depict the taking and eventual killing of 11 Israeli athletes at the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich, with that action punctuated by the very different reactions of Israeli (including Avners) and Palestinian family's watching the events on TV. In the after math of the killings American school teacher turned Israeli Prime Minister Goldea Meir (Lynn Cohen) authorizes the deployment of a group of assassins (headed by Avner) to take out 11 individuals who had some role in plotting the Munich massacre.

Avners team is made up of 5 people, non of whom have any experience in assassinations but all of whom bring some specific expertise from their civilian life that will come in handy during their missions, for example Robert (Mathieu Kassovitz) was a toy maker who did work with explosives on the side. With nearly unlimited financing and the help of a French information syndicate, the five men spend the next year-plus traveling around Europe checking names of their lists, growing increasingly paranoid, and repeatedly encountering the moral ambiguities of their work.

The films success as an espionage thriller is only enhanced by its early 70's setting (the era is well captured without feeling tacky), and the elaborate plans that the 5 come up with to kill their targets are fascinating. Their opponites point of view is well articulated during conversations had when the group spends a night in a safe house with Palestinian fighters who think they are communist agents. All the performances are fine, the tension palatable, and Spielbergs versatility as a director well displayed. I have seen 4 movies in the theater over the Christmas holiday and Munich is the only one I'd pay to see there again.

  • Also seen by me yesterday: Now Voyager is one of the more respected love storys of the 1940's. Based on the novel by Stella Dallas author Olive Higgins Prouty, Now Voyager is the story of Charlotte Vale (Bette Davis), youngest daughter of Mrs. Henry Windle Vale (Gladys Cooper) of the well respected Boston Vale family. The 'old made' (she can't be more then 30 something in this film) Aunt Charlotte is driven to a nervous breakdown by her domineering mother. Taken to a retreat in Vermont by kindly doctor Jaquith (Claude Rains playing a psychologist for the second time in a year), Charlotte loses weight and demonstrates a great deal of psychological improvement. Feeling that she needs some real world experience to cape her recovery Dr. Jaquith sends her on a cruise from New York to Rio and back financed by her caring sister-in-law Lisa Vale (Ilka Chase). On the boat Charlotte hooks up with unhappy married man Jerry Durrance (Warners European import Paul Henrid), wins back her confidence, and ill-fated romance ensues. An inspiring story about coming out of ones shell, Now Voyager is Bette Davis in fine form in a sympathetic role. The rest of the cast especially Claude Rains and Paul Henreid give endearing performances with the film only marred by the forced comic relief of Frank Puglia as Giuseppe the incompetent cab driver, a character who feels like a refuge from another film.

2 Comments:

At 10:36 AM, Blogger Nate Dredge said...

I also wanted to menton that Munichs screenplay was co-written by Tony Kushner of Angels in America fam.

 
At 12:18 PM, Blogger GlennBeckFan said...

I really want to see this one! It is almost as antisipated as Jackson Irish's untitled Atlantis film! That's right, after a month off I have developed most of a concept for our class starting tomorrow!

 

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