MUNICH (Steven Spielberg). 160 minutes. Opens Friday (December 23). Some subtitles. For venues and times, see Movie Listings. Rating: NNNNN Rating: NNNN
Munich connects the two halves of director Steven Spielberg : the guy who can piece together an actioner in his sleep and (especially since A.I.) the questioning moralist.
Inspired by real events, the film begins with a turning point in Israeli/Palestinian relations: the kidnapping and murder of 11 Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics. It then focuses on a hit squad secretly hired by the Israeli government to assassinate the 11 Palestinian organizers of the atrocity.
Set up like a thriller, the film delivers plenty of harrowing suspense and intrigue. But the screenplay, co-written by Eric Roth and the great Tony Kushner (Angels In America), moves the film beyond traditional thrillers. Huge themes like vengeance and family work their way artfully throughout the script. The political arguments, whether in Golda Meir's office, around a dinner table or between two strangers in a stairwell, feel authentic.
Shot quickly less than half a year ago, Munich isn't perfect. Some sequences feel rushed. A multiple flashback scene near the end is a misstep.
But this is a major work in Spielberg's serious film mode, as good as or better than Schindler's List and Saving Private Ryan. Unlike those films, however, Munich refuses to offer any hope or release.