Good, not great, political thriller about a quintet of Jewish assassins (led by former Mossad agent Avner Kauffman, played by Australian actor Eric Bana) who have been assigned by the Israeli government to track down and kill the Palestinian men behind the kidnapping and murder of eleven Israeli athletes during the 1972 Olympics in Munich.
Munich's tense set pieces alternate with talky scenes rife with psychobabble; the results are mixed. Spielberg for once doesn't cop for the feel-good ending, which is refreshing, though as the eternal populist he can't help but dumb down his drama slightly, taking too much time with his characters arguing over right and wrong and explaining to the audience a little too explicitly that violence begets violence, revenge begets revenge, and so on. (Playwright Tony Kushner, he of Angels in America fame, cowrote Munich's screenplay with Eric Roth: I suspect Roth did the legwork in adapting George Jonas's nonfiction book Vengeance for the screen, while Kushner wrote all the stagey dialogue.)
As a director, however, Spielberg's at the top of his game, and with the help of his regular DP, the infallible Janusz Kaminski, his visual style is at once powerful, no-nonsense, even luminous. Bana is fine (if indistinct) as Kauffman, as is an eclectic international cast who fully inhabit their roles. There is also a cool, old-fashioned spy movie feel to the film, thanks to a sparkling array of international locales, good-looking men in trim disco shirts and opaque aviator shades, and a timeless (if '70s-soaked) European atmosphere. The production values are flawless. But that doesn't excuse the film from its draggy verbal mumbo-jumbo, vague sense of misogyny, and overworked themes.
Though there is plenty of food for thought in Munich, and I'll attest that this is a very smartly-made film, we could have received the story's message just as well - if not with even greater impact - simply by watching these assassins carry out their bloody, ultimately pointless assignment. We don't have to listen to them wax philosophical about it.