Directed by Steven Spielberg
Starring: Eric Bana, Geoffrey Rush
Score: John Williams
Studio: Universal 21823
Video: 2.35:1 enhanced for 16:9 widescreen
Audio: DD 5.1 English or French
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish
Extras: Introduction by Seven Spielberg
Length: 2 hours, 44 minutes
Spielberg’s masterful thriller got five Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture and Best Director. It is a powerful story of vengeance, which even though seen by the majority of the world as proper and expected, takes a terrible toll on those who carry it out. The true events on which it is based are the massacre of 11 Israeli athletes by Palestinian terrorists at the 1972 Olympics in Munich, the difficult decision by Israel’s Golda Meir to send out a team to exact revenge on the perpetrators, and the fact that some of the terrorists were in fact killed. The rest of the story is explained by Spielberg in his introduction (which was not part of the theatrical presentation) to be purely conjecture about what actually occurred.
The portrayal of the events is brutally honest and doesn’t try to take sides. Spielberg came in for considerable criticism from some in the pro-Israeli camp, but it cannot be denied that the film highlights in a most dramatic way some of the issues that need to be discussed about terrorism and revenge. Bana plays the Israeli soldier who is unexpectedly selected to lead the team which will attempt to track down and assassinate the 11 Palestinians who were believed to have planned the massacre. The team consists of several experts in specific required skills, such as remote control of bombs, and faking various passports and visas to get close to some of the targets. The team was financed via an anonymous bank account in Switzerland and ordered not to travel to any Arab countries to carry out their mission, which made their task more difficult. Geoffrey Rush plays the team leader’s Israeli contact man with his usual skill, and another interesting character is the son of a French family who specialize in informing qualifying clients about where certain important people can be found. One of the most edge-of-seat scenes is when the members of the team have just arrived at a safe house one of them had arranged for, and they are suddenly joined by a group of Arab terrorists who had also arranged for the safe house but reservations evidently got mixed up. After an initial dicey confrontation they elect to share the space equally, but tension erupts humorously over what to listen to on the radio.
The cinematography is superb and the transfer to DVD seemed to have no identifiable artifacts. John Williams’ score is not often to the fore soundwise but is effective when it is. The Dolby surround track is well-used at a couple points to increase the realism of certain acoustic environments.
– John Sunier