Munich, Spielberg’s forgotten masterpiece

Posted on 19 May 2017
By Adam Salter
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Surrounding the release of Steven Spielberg’s 2005 epic ‘Munich’ the director was under heavy political scrutiny from both sides of the Israel/Palestine conflict.

The film addresses the backlash of the 1972 Munich Olympic massacre, when eleven members of the Israeli Olympic team where held hostage and killed by a Palestinian terrorist group known as Black September.

Spielberg’s goal with this project was to show the endless cycle of violence in the Middle east and how its justified as retaliation. Unfortunately most audiences and critics became blinded by the controversy surrounding the film and missed a master class in film making and what is possibly the greatest Spielberg movie in recent history.

Arguable one of the greatest directors of his time, Spielberg chose to put his career on the line with this project by using his profile to suggest a rather unpopular commentary on the conflict surrounding the Middle East. Opinions aside Munich was made by expert hands and the product was just that, expert. By 2005 Spielberg was a veteran director with three Oscars under his belt and countless nominations (10), so when Munich received five nominations was anybody surprised?

The nominations were met with extreme hostility and what should have been a sure win became impossibility, and Munich was soon forgotten.

When listing the great films of Spielberg’s career most people could name a dozen or so (Jaws, Schindler’s List, Saving Private Ryan, Jurassic Park, E.T, Lincoln and so on), but why isn’t Munich on that list. When I watch this film I see only a recipe for success; it features immense action, Clear story progression, powerful dialogue, a dynamic ensemble cast and some of the best camera work of his career.

If you can forgive Daniel Craig and Eric Bana for their sloppy accents, then you have a beautifully made revenge story in which the characters and the audiences start the film demanding retribution but ultimately question the impact of revenge.

Another criticism Munich receives is its running time (at 2 hours and 45 minutes), some felt it was too long. I would remind those people that what they are watching isn’t a punchy summer blockbuster but a complicated story told from a director who has never shied away from a long edit with Schindler’s list running in at 3 hours and 15 minutes, and Saving Private Ryan at 2 hours and 49 minutes.

Spielberg strategically uses long takes and very limited music throughout the film to build tension and draw the audience’s gaze. This is a deliberate way of making the audience concentrate on minor details they might not have noticed if the camera was jumping around a scene. Nothing in Munich is accidental so if you feel inspired to watch the film after reading this then maybe look out for just how long Spielberg keeps the camera rolling, it’s subtle but it defines the most memorable scenes of the film.

Despite the film being set in the 1970’s the message of the film is still just as relevant and put that together with fantastic set design, strong script, good performances and impressive action sequences, for these points, I think Munich deserves to be remembered as one of Spielberg’s greatest.