Roger L. Simon

Munchen

I’m not going to get into a lengthy discussion of “Munich,” a movie I didn’t expect to like and didn’t. As almost everyone agrees, Steven Spielberg is an extraordinarily gifted and accomplished filmmaker, especially when he is dealing with popular entertainment themes as in “E.. T.” and “Jaws”. He is not in any sense, however, a sophisticated thinker and “Munich” is an ultimately banal film, completely out of his range. Despite all its pyrotechnics, the movie feels weirdly slapdash, disorganized and overlong as it is, shot from a first or revised draft written by someone (Tony Kushner) with little or no experience as a screenwriter; hence much of the film seems stage bound with long tendentious speeches given in the most unlikely places. The Mossad would have to be the world’s worst intelligence agency, given that they hold their most private discussions in this movie in full view on Paris street corners or in the in the midst of blowing someone up. Also, although the film supposedly deals with serious issues of terrorism and vengeance, it is shot with the full panoply of fog machines, fancy backlighting, etc., at gorgeously kitschy European locations (like an oh-so-beautiful Amsterdam houseboat and a too-perfect French farm.) It’s almost laughable at times and the end of the movie crosses the line into a virtually incoherent grand guignol of sex and mayhem that approaches opera bouffe. The writers (I don’t know where first writer Eric Roth fits in all this, but I suspect he doesn’t either) and director seem to have lost complete contact with what they are trying to say, other than that they are trying to be très sérieux. That is why I can’t take the film’s politics, like most Hollywood posturing, too seriously. It’s mostly about the filmmakers’ self-image. When it comes to a movie about the problems of revenge, I would skip this mish-mash and go rent John Ford’s “The Searchers”.

For what it’s worth, I agree with most of Bret Stephens’ review in the WSJ Sunday, but I don’t think Spielberg is any sense anti-Semitic. He’s just boring. Another interesting view here.