May 8, 2006

DVD Review: Munich

Steven Spielberg's Munich is an absolutely amazing film. Spielberg has an uncanny ability to create huge entertaining movies such as Raiders of the Lost Ark and Jaws, blockbuster family films like ET: The Extratrerrestrial and Hook, and important serious films such as Schindler's List and Saving Private Ryan. I don't mean to imply that those other films aren't serious or important, but I think you get my meaning. Munich falls into the same category as Schindler's List and Saving Private Ryan.

Photobucket - Video and Image HostingMunich is a powerful film, number 6 on my best of 2005 list. It is inspired by real events, and attempts to recreate those events to the best that is possible. The problem is that many of the facts are not known, so a lot of holes have to be filled in. Spielberg and his writers, Tony Kushner and Eric Roth, used George Jonas' book, Vengeance: The True Story of an Israeli Counter-Terrorist Team, as the basis for this film and a sarting point for their research. The film is not a documentary, and Spielberg has stated that he did not intend it as such. Rather, he has crafted a film that reflects on revenge, and the effects that such terrible acts of violence can have on a person.

Photobucket - Video and Image HostingIf you subtract the real world basis for the film, what you have are the seeds for a potent suspense/thriller/action film. Picture this, if you will, in the dead of night a group of terrorists take a group of hostages, the end result being a violent shootout resulting in the deaths of said hostages. Now, think of how the families and nation of those people would react, they send in a team of covert agents to track down and assassinate those involved with the spilling of innocent blood. Sounds like it could be a highly entertaining action thriller, but also has the potential for the reflection on the moral culpability of both sides. Does violence that begets violence serve justice? What kind of effect will it have on those involved?

Now, realize that it was real. I know there are many of you out there who remember when this happened. I was not yet of this world, and do not have those memories, but know of what happened. In 1972, at the Olympics in Munich, a terrorist group called Black September infiltrated the Olympic village, taking a number of Israeli athletes hostage. They requested the release of a large number of political prisoners. The situation did not end well, it ended in a shootout which saw all of th athletes murdered. As a reaction to this, the Israeli Prime Minister charges a covert Mossad unit to track down 11 known participants in the planning and execution of Munich, and murder them.

Photobucket - Video and Image HostingSpielberg begins his film with the attack in Munich, before moving on to the real subject of the work, the team that is charged with the act of assassinating the assassins. The movie works exceedingly well as a thriller, but it succeeds the most at giving us an unflinching look at the events and the toll that it took on the lives of the team members involved.

The acting by all involved is excellent. Heading the cast is Eric Bana as Avner the team leader. Bana was Spielberg's first choice for the role after seeing him in Hulk. Bana is impressive, giving this character a strong determination that is tempered with pain and sorrow. Joining him are Daniel Craig, Ciaran Hinds, Mathieu Kassovitz, and Hanns Zischler. Each one adding a different personality to the film.

Photobucket - Video and Image HostingSteven Spielberg has crafted one of his finest films. He has painstakingly researched the film for as much accuracy as he could get. He and his crew have successfully recreated the look of the seventies, from the cars to the clothing, to the hairstyles, combined with story accuracy, and even the technical aspects, like using a zoom instead of moving the camera. That may sound like a little thing, but it makes a big difference in the way it looks.

When talking about the look of the film, one must mention Janusz Kaminski. He is the cinematographer, and his work is extradinary. He has given each location a different feel, his expertise behind the lens is unparallelled, and he works so well with Spielberg. The two have been collaborating since Schindler's List in 1993.

That brings us to John Williams, a man in great demand during 2005. His work here is stirring and full of emotion. I have always enjoyed his work, and this is no difference. There is a blending of soul stirring strings and vocal arrangements which work perfectly with the subject matter.

Overall, this is an amazing film, and among Spielberg's best.

Audio. The DVD is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 and it sounds very good. I am sure that some would have liked to have had a DTS track, but there are no complaints to be had here.

Video. The film is presented in its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1. It is well represented on disk. The desatrurated color palette is always crisp, never muddy, blacks are deep but never conceal detail. Very nice looking disk.

Extras. Note: The review material I received contained the retail version of the single disk version and a burned preview copy of the extras disk from the two disk version. I am fairly confident that what is shown here is what will be on the retail version. The difference being, there are no menus or subtitles and there is an imprint of "NOT AUTHORIZED FOR BROADCAST" emblazoned across the bottom. I mention this because this may differ from what you get in the two disker.

-"Introduction by Steven Spielberg": This also appears on the first disk, so I do not believe it will be on both. It is a 4 minute talk from the director, with film clips, about his reasoning for the film, and the purpose for which he made it.
-"Munich: The Mission, the Team": This 13 minute feauturette takes a look at each of the primary cast members and the roles which they play. It is very interesting and well worth the watch.
-"Munich: Memories of the Event": This runs nearly 9 minutes and features interviews with people about their memories of the Munich event. It also includes a segment with Guri Weinberg, who portrays his father, Moshe Weinberg, who was one of the murdered athletes.
-"Munich: Portrait of an Era": This explores the efforts they went through to recreate the look and feel of the 1970's, for nearly 12 and a half minutes.
-"Munich: The On-Set Experience": Over 14 minutes of footage of what it was like to be onset. Conversations with cast and crew about the creation of the film.
-"Munich: The International Cast": This runs over 12 minutes, and explores the cast members that were from the Middle East among other countries.
-"Munich: Editing, Sound, and Music": This includes discussion of the great work done by Janusz Kaminski, John Williams, and Michael Kahn. Each contributed to the amazing look and feel of this masterpiece.

Bottomline. This is a must-have. It tells an amazing story in stylish fashion. It doesn't shy away from the moral ambiguities of the situation. The DVD is a very good representation of the disk. Sadly, the single disk has no extras whatsoever. The contents of disk two are quite interesting, so it may be the way to go.

Highly Recommended.
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