|Directed by||Steven Spielberg|
|Based on|| Vengeance |
by George Jonas
|Edited by||Michael Kahn|
|Music by||John Williams|
|Box office||$131 million|
Munich is a 2005 spy drama film produced and directed by Steven Spielberg, co-written by Tony Kushner and Eric Roth. It is based on the 1984 book Vengeance by George Jonas, an account of Operation Wrath of God, the Israeli government's secret retaliation against the Palestine Liberation Organization after the Munich massacre at the 1972 Summer Olympics.
Munich was released by Universal Pictures in the United States and internationally by DreamWorks Pictures through United International Pictures on December 23, 2005, and received five Oscar nominations: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Editing, and Best Score. The film made $131 million worldwide but just $47 million in the United States, making it one of Spielberg's lowest-grossing films domestically.In 2017, the film was named the 16th "Best Film of the 21st Century So Far" by The New York Times . It was also Spielberg's last film distributed by Universal until The Fabelmans in 2022.
At the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich, the Palestinian terrorist group Black September kills 11 members of the Israeli Olympic team. Avner Kaufman, a Mossad agent of German-Jewish descent, is chosen to lead a mission to assassinate 11 Palestinians allegedly involved in the massacre. At the direction of his handler Ephraim, to give the Israeli government plausible deniability, Kaufman resigns from Mossad and operates with no official ties to Israel. His team includes four Jewish volunteers from around the world: South African driver Steve, Belgian toy-maker and explosives expert Robert, former Israeli soldier and "cleaner" Carl, and German antiques dealer and document forger Hans from Frankfurt. They are given information by a French informant, Louis.
In Rome, the team shoots and kills Wael Zwaiter, who is living as a poet. In Paris, they detonate a bomb in the home of Mahmoud Hamshari; in Cyprus, they bomb the hotel room of Hussein Abd Al Chir. With IDF commandos, they pursue three Palestinian militants—Muhammad Youssef al-Najjar, Kamal Adwan, and Kamal Nasser—to Beirut, penetrate the Palestinians' guarded compound and kill all three.
Between hits, the assassins argue with each other about the morality and logistics of their mission, expressing fear about their individual lack of experience, as well as their apparent ambivalence about accidentally killing innocent bystanders. Avner makes a brief visit to his wife, who has given birth to their first baby. In Athens, when they track down Zaiad Muchasi, the team finds out that Louis arranged for them to share a safe house with their rival PLO members and the Mossad agents escape trouble by pretending to be members of foreign militant groups like ETA, IRA, ANC, and the Red Army Faction. Avner has a heartfelt conversation with PLO member Ali over their homelands and who deserves to rule over the lands; Ali is later shot by Carl while the team escapes from the hit on Muchasi.
The squad moves on to London to track down Ali Hassan Salameh, who orchestrated the Munich massacre, but the assassination attempt is interrupted by several drunken Americans. It is implied that these are agents of the CIA, which, according to Louis, protects and funds Salameh in exchange for his promise not to attack US diplomats. Meanwhile, attempts are made to kill the assassins themselves. Carl is killed by an independent Dutch contract killer. In revenge, the team tracks her down and execute her at a houseboat in Hoorn, Netherlands. Hans is found stabbed to death on a park bench and Robert is killed by an explosion in his workshop. Avner and Steve finally locate Salameh in Spain, but again their assassination attempt is thwarted, this time by Salameh's armed guards. Avner and Steve disagree on whether Louis has sold information on the team to the PLO.
A disillusioned Avner flies to Israel, where he is unhappy to be hailed as a hero by two young soldiers and then to his new home in Brooklyn, where he suffers post-traumatic stress and paranoia. Concerns continue to grow when he speaks to Louis's father by phone and it is revealed he knows his real name and promises no violence will come to him from his family. He is thrown out of the Israeli consulate after storming in to demand that Mossad leave his wife and child alone. Ephraim comes to ask Avner to return to Israel and Mossad, but Avner refuses. Avner then asks Ephraim to come to dinner with his family, to break bread as an allegory to make peace, but Ephraim refuses, perhaps as a sign that neither side will reconcile.
On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has a 78% approval rating based on 211 reviews, with an average rating of 7.40/10. The site's consensus reads, "Munich can't quite achieve its lofty goals, but this thrilling, politically even-handed look at the fallout from an intractable political conflict is still well worth watching."Metacritic assigned the film a weighted average score of 74 out of 100, based on 39 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews". Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "B+" on an A+ to F scale.
Roger Ebert praised the film, saying, "With this film [Spielberg] has dramatically opened a wider dialogue, helping to make the inarguable into the debatable."He placed it at No. 3 on his top ten list of 2005. James Berardinelli wrote that "Munich is an eye-opener – a motion picture that asks difficult questions, presents well-developed characters, and keeps us white-knuckled throughout." He named it the best film of the year; it was the only film in 2005 to which Berardinelli gave four stars, and he also put it on his Top 100 Films of All Time list. Entertainment Weekly film critic Owen Gleiberman mentioned Munich amongst the best movies of the decade. Rex Reed from The New York Observer disagrees, writing: "With no heart, no ideology and not much intellectual debate, Munich is a big disappointment, and something of a bore."
Variety reviewer Todd McCarthy called Munich a "beautifully made" film. However, he criticized the film for failing to include "compelling" characters, and for its use of laborious plotting and a "flabby script." McCarthy says that the film turns into "... a lumpy and overlong morality play on a failed thriller template." To succeed, McCarthy states that Spielberg would have needed to engage the viewer in the assassin squad leader's growing crisis of conscience and create a more "sustain(ed) intellectual interest" for the viewer.Writing in Empire , Ian Nathan wrote "Munich is Steven Spielberg's most difficult film. It arrives already inflamed by controversy. ... This is Spielberg operating at his peak—an exceptionally made, provocative, and vital film for our times."
Chicago Tribune reviewer Allison Benedikt calls Munich a "competent thriller", but laments that as an "intellectual pursuit, it is little more than a pretty prism through which superficial Jewish guilt and generalized Palestinian nationalism" are made to "... look like the product of serious soul-searching." Benedikt states that Spielberg's treatment of the film's "dense and complicated" subject matter can be summed up as "Palestinians want a homeland, Israelis have to protect theirs." She rhetorically asks: "Do we need another handsome, well-assembled, entertaining movie to prove that we all bleed red?"
Another critique was Gabriel Schoenfeld's "Spielberg's 'Munich'" in the February 2006 issue of Commentary , who called it "pernicious". He compared the fictional film to history, asserted that Spielberg and especially Kushner felt that the Palestinian terrorists and the Mossad agents are morally equivalent and concluded: "The movie deserves an Oscar in one category only: most hypocritical film of the year."Israeli author and journalist Aaron J. Klein wrote in Slate that the movie was a "distortion" of facts, concluding that "A rigorous factual accounting may not be the point of Munich, which Spielberg has characterized as a 'prayer for peace.' But as result, Munich has less to do with history and the grim aftermath of the Munich Massacre than some might wish."
In defense of the climactic sex scene, critics Jim Emerson of the Chicago Sun-Times and Matt Zoller Seitz of Salon compared it to Lady Macbeth's suicide in William Shakespeare's Macbeth , interpreting the sequence as representing the corruption of Avner's personal life as a result of his being conditioned to kill others to avenge Munich.
Munich was listed on many critics' top ten lists.
Some reviewers criticized Munich for what they call the film's equating the Israeli assassins with "terrorists".Leon Wieseltier wrote in The New Republic : "Worse, Munich prefers a discussion of counter-terrorism to a discussion of terrorism; or it thinks that they are the same discussion".
Melman and other critics of the book and the film have said that the story's premise—that Israeli agents had second thoughts about their work—is not supported by interviews or public statements. In an interview with Reuters, a retired head of Israel's Shin Bet intelligence service and former Internal Security Minister, Avi Dichter, likened Munich to a children's adventure story: "There is no comparison between what you see in the movie and how it works in reality".In a Time magazine cover story about the film on December 4, 2005, Spielberg said that the source of the film had second thoughts about his actions. "There is something about killing people at close range that is excruciating," Spielberg said. "It's bound to try a man's soul." Of the real Avner, Spielberg says, "I don't think he will ever find peace."
The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) – describing itself as "the oldest, and one of the largest, pro-Israel and Zionist organizations in the United States" – called for a boycott of the film on December 27, 2005.The ZOA criticized the factual basis of the film and leveled criticism at one of the screenwriters, Tony Kushner, whom the ZOA has described as an "Israel-hater". Criticism was also directed at the Anti-Defamation League's (ADL) National Director, Abraham Foxman, for his support of the film.
David Edelstein of the online Slate magazine argued that "The Israeli government and many conservative and pro-Israeli commentators have lambasted the film for naiveté, for implying that governments should never retaliate. But an expression of uncertainty and disgust is not the same as one of outright denunciation. What Munich does say is that this shortsighted tit-for-tat can produce a kind of insanity, both individual and collective."
Ilana Romano, wife of an Israeli weightlifter Yossef Romano killed in the Munich massacre, said that Spielberg overlooked the Lillehammer affair,although Spielberg seems to have been conscious of the omission; the film's opening title frame shows Lillehammer in a montage of city names, with Munich standing out from the rest. The Jewish Journal said that "the revenge squad obsess about making sure only their targets are hit -- and meticulous care is taken to avoid collateral damage. Yet in one shootout an innocent man is also slain ... The intense moral contortions the agents experience as the corpses pile up makes up the substance of the movie."
According to Ronen Bergman as reported in Newsweek , it is a myth that Mossad agents hunted down and killed those responsible for the killing of 11 Israeli athletes and a German policeman at the 1972 Munich Olympic Games; in fact most of the people were never killed or caught. Most of the people that Mossad did kill had nothing to do with the Munich deaths. He says the film was based on a book whose source was an Israeli who claimed to be the lead assassin of the hit squad, but in fact was a baggage inspector at Tel Aviv airport.
Although Munich is a work of fiction, it describes many actual events and figures from the early 1970s. On the Israeli side, Prime Minister Golda Meir is depicted in the film, and other military and political leaders such as Attorney General Meir Shamgar, Mossad chief Zvi Zamir and Aman chief Aharon Yariv are also depicted. Spielberg tried to make the depiction of the hostage-taking and killing of the Israeli athletes historically authentic.Unlike an earlier film, 21 Hours at Munich , Spielberg's film depicts the shooting of all the Israeli athletes, which according to the autopsies was accurate. In addition, the film uses actual news clips shot during the hostage situation.
Israeli/American actor Guri Weinberg portrays his own father, wrestling coach Moshe. The younger Weinberg was only one month old when his father was killed.
The named members of Black September, and their deaths, are also mostly factual. Abdel Wael Zwaiter, a translator at the Libyan Embassy in Rome, was shot 11 times, one bullet for each of the victims of the Munich Massacre, in the lobby of his apartment 41 days after Munich. On December 8 of that year Mahmoud Hamshari, a senior PLO figure, was killed in Paris by a bomb concealed in the table below his telephone. Although the film depicts the bomb being concealed in the telephone itself, other details of the assassination (such as confirmation of the target via telephone call) are accurate. Others killed during this period include Mohammed Boudia, Basil al-Kubasi, Hussein al-Bashir, and Zaiad Muchasi, some of whose deaths are depicted in the film. Ali Hassan Salameh was also a real person, and a prominent member of Black September. In 1979 he was killed in Beirut by a car bombthat also killed four innocent bystanders and injured 18 others.
The commando raid in Beirut, known as Operation Spring of Youth, also occurred. This attack included future Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Yom Kippur War and Operation Entebbe hero Yonatan Netanyahu, who are both portrayed by name in the film. The methods used to track down and assassinate the Black September members were much more complicated than the methods portrayed in the film; for example, the tracking of the Black September cell members was achieved by a network of Mossad agents, not an informant as depicted in the film.
Atlantic Productions, producers of BAFTA-nominated documentary Munich: Mossad's Revenge , listed several discrepancies between Spielberg's film and the information it obtained from interviews with Mossad agents involved in the operation. It noted that the film suggests one group carried out almost all the assassinations, whereas in reality it was a much larger team. Mossad did not work with a mysterious French underworld figure as portrayed in the book and the film. The assassination campaign did not end because agents lost their nerve but because of the Lillehammer affair in which an innocent Moroccan waiter was killed. This is not mentioned in the film. As acknowledged by Spielberg, the targets were not all directly involved in Munich.
|Film score by|
|Released||December 27, 2005|
|Studio||Sony Pictures Studios|
|John Williams chronology|
The film score was composed and conducted by John Williams.
The soundtrack album was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Original Score but lost to the score of the film Brokeback Mountain . It was also nominated for the Grammy Award for Best Score Soundtrack for Visual Media but lost to the score of Memoirs of a Geisha (also scored by Williams).
AllMusic rated the soundtrack three and a half stars out of five.Filmtracks.com rated it four out of five. SoundtrackNet rated it four and a half out of five. ScoreNotes graded it "A−".
| AACTA Award |
(2005 AFI Awards)
|Best International Actor||Eric Bana||Nominated|
|Academy Awards||Best Picture||Steven Spielberg, Kathleen Kennedy and Barry Mendel||Nominated|
|Best Director||Steven Spielberg||Nominated|
|Best Adapted Screenplay||Tony Kushner and Eric Roth||Nominated|
|Best Film Editing||Michael Kahn||Nominated|
|Best Original Score||John Williams||Nominated|
|ACE Eddie||Best Edited Feature Film – Dramatic||Michael Kahn||Nominated|
|Central Ohio Film Critics Association Award||Best Ensemble Cast||Won|
|Critics' Choice Movie Award||Best Director||Steven Spielberg||Nominated|
|Directors Guild of America Award||Outstanding Directing – Feature Film||Nominated|
|Empire Awards||Best Thriller||Steven Spielberg, Kathleen Kennedy, Barry Mendel, Colin Wilson||Nominated|
|Golden Eagle Award||Best Foreign Language Film||Munich||Nominated|
|Golden Globe Award||Best Director||Steven Spielberg||Nominated|
|Best Screenplay||Tony Kushner, Eric Roth||Nominated|
|Golden Reel Awards||Sound Editing in Feature Film||Nominated|
|Golden Trailer Awards||Trailer of the Year||Nominated|
|Grammy Award||Best Score Soundtrack Album for Motion Picture,|
Television or Other Visual Media
|Kansas City Film Critics Circle Award||Best Director||Steven Spielberg||Won|
|Best Film||Steven Spielberg, Kathleen Kennedy, Barry Mendel, Colin Wilson||Won|
|Best Adapted Screenplay||Tony Kushner, Eric Roth||Won|
|Online Film Critics Society Awards||Best Director||Steven Spielberg||Nominated|
|Best Picture||Steven Spielberg, Kathleen Kennedy, Barry Mendel, Colin Wilson||Nominated|
|Best Adapted Screenplay||Tony Kushner, Eric Roth||Nominated|
|Best Original Score||John Williams||Nominated|
|Best Editing||Michael Kahn||Nominated|
|Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Association Awards||Best Director||Steven Spielberg||Won|
|Best Film||Steven Spielberg, Kathleen Kennedy, Barry Mendel, Colin Wilson||Won|
|Best Adapted Screenplay||Tony Kushner, Eric Roth||Nominated|
|Best Supporting Actor||Geoffrey Rush||Nominated|
|World Soundtrack Academy Award||Best Original Soundtrack||John Williams||Nominated|
The Black September Organization (BSO) was a Palestinian militant organization founded in 1970. Besides other actions, the group was responsible for the assassination of the Jordanian Prime Minister Wasfi Tal, and the Munich massacre, in which eleven Israeli athletes and officials were kidnapped and killed, as well as a West German policeman losing his life, during the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich, their most publicized event. These attacks led to the creation or specialization of permanent counter-terrorism forces in many European countries.
Ali Hassan Salameh was a Palestinian terrorist who was the chief of operations for Black September, the organization responsible for the 1972 Munich massacre and other terror attacks. He was also the founder of Force 17. He was assassinated by Mossad in January 1979 as part of Operation Wrath of God.
The Lillehammer affair was the killing by Mossad agents of Ahmed Bouchikhi, a Moroccan waiter and brother of the renowned musician Chico Bouchikhi, in Lillehammer, Norway, on 21 July 1973. The Israeli agents had mistaken their target for Ali Hassan Salameh, the chief of operations for Black September. Six of the Mossad team of fifteen were captured and convicted of complicity in the killing by the Norwegian justice system in a major blow to the intelligence agency's reputation.
The 1973 Israeli raid on Lebanon took place on the night of April 9 and early morning of April 10, 1973, when Israeli army special forces units attacked several Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) targets in Beirut and Sidon, Lebanon. The operation is generally considered to have been part of Operation Wrath of God, Israel's retaliation for the Munich massacre at the Summer Olympics in 1972.
James Berardinelli is an American film critic and former engineer. His reviews are mainly published on his blog ReelViews. Approved as a critic by the aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, he has published two collections of reviews of movies on DVD and video. He is also a fantasy novelist, publishing a trilogy from 2015 through 2016 known as The Last Whisper of the Gods.
Sword of Gideon is a 1986 Canadian television film about Mossad agents hunting down terrorists associated with the 1972 Munich massacre. It was first shown on the CTV Television Network in Canada as a four-hour miniseries and later on HBO in the United States. Directed by Michael Anderson and written by Chris Bryant, the film stars Steven Bauer and Michael York. The film is based on the book Vengeance by George Jonas, an account of the incident which has been criticized by some intelligence personnel as fictional, though because of its covert nature is difficult to prove or disprove. In some countries the book was titled Vengeance: Sword of Gideon, from which the movie title is drawn. The story was retold in the 2005 film Munich by Steven Spielberg.
Force 17 was a commando and special operations unit of the Palestinian Fatah movement and later of the Office of the Chairman of the Palestinian Authority. It was formed in the early 1970s by Ali Hassan Salameh. Initially, the group was housed in building 17 of Al-Fakhani Street in Beirut.
Operation "Wrath of God", also known as Operation "Bayonet", was a covert operation directed by Mossad to assassinate individuals involved in the 1972 Munich massacre in which 11 members of the Israeli Olympic team were killed. The targets were members of the Palestinian armed militant group Black September and operatives of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). Authorized by Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir in the autumn of 1972, the operation is believed to have continued for over twenty years.
Atef Bseiso was the Palestine Liberation Organization's (PLO) liaison officer with foreign intelligence agencies. He was assassinated in Paris in 1992. Several theories exist regarding the reason for his murder. According to one, alleging he played a role in the 1972 Munich Olympics massacre, his execution was part of the Wrath of God Operation. Others argue it was an Israeli operation aiming to disrupt relations of the PLO with Western intelligence agencies. The PLO denied Bseiso had any connection to the Munich operation.
Juval Aviv, also Yuval Aviv, is an Israeli-American security consultant and founder of Interfor International, a corporate investigations firm in New York City. Juval Aviv is also a book writer under the pseudonym Sam Green.
Michael Harari was an Israeli intelligence officer in the Mossad. He was involved in several notable operations, including the failed Lillehammer affair and the rescue of hostages at Entebbe.
Vengeance is a 1984 book by George Jonas describing part of Operation Wrath of God, the Israeli assassination campaign launched after the 1972 Munich Olympics massacre. It was re-released as Vengeance: The True Story of an Israeli Counter-Terrorist Team or Vengeance: Sword of Gideon in some later editions and countries.
Kidon is the elite unit within Israel's Mossad that is allegedly responsible for the planning and execution of clandestine assassination campaigns against enemies of the Israeli state.
Abdel Wael Zwaiter was a Palestinian translator, assassinated as the first target of Israel's Operation Wrath of God campaign following the 1972 Munich massacre. Israel considered Zwaiter a terrorist for his role in the Black September group, while his supporters argue that he was "never conclusively linked" with Black September or the Munich massacre and was killed in retribution.
Erika Chambers, also known as Agent Penelope, is the assumed alias of a presumed Mossad operative behind the action on January 22, 1979 that killed Ali Hassan Salameh, leader of Black September and lead plotter behind the Munich massacre.
Munich: Mossad's Revenge is a documentary produced by Atlantic Productions and aired on Channel 4 in Britain concerning Operation Wrath of God, the Israeli assassination campaign that was organized in response to the Munich Massacre. The documentary includes interviews with many of the agents involved in the operation.
Mossad is the national intelligence agency of Israel. It is one of the main entities in the Israeli Intelligence Community, along with Aman and Shin Bet.
Events in the year 1973 in Israel.
Rise and Kill First: The Secret History of Israel's Targeted Assassinations is a 2018 book by Ronen Bergman about the history of targeted assassinations by Israel's intelligence services. Its author says that Israel has assassinated more people than any other western country since World War II. It portrays the assassinations of British government officials, Hamas, Hezbollah and Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) leaders, and Iranian nuclear scientists. To write the book, Bergman carried out about a thousand interviews with political figures and secret agents and consulted "thousands" of documents.