by: Cara Wides - Last updated: 2006-02-15
Take a five-man team of top Mossad agents, send them on a mission to wipe out a bloodthirsty gang of 11 terrorists, and you'll have a gripping film.
Add to this an examination of the Palestinian-Israel conflict, and cinema-goers will be too engrossed to eat their popcorn.
Steven Spielberg's latest offering, Munich, looks at the true story of the murders of 11 Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics, by a group of Palestinian terrorists. The film relates how Israel took revenge for this massacre by sending Mossad agents to find the terrorists- who had dispersed around the globe - and kill them.
The Mossad agents are lead by Avner, played by the stunning-looking Eric Bana, and the film centres around him and his internal conflicts. He's a kind of Isreali James Bond figure - tall, brooding, determined and devastingly handsome - but with a lot more angst than 007.
The others in his team are so quirky they are almost like cartoon characters- there's the mad cap toy maker turned bomb expert Robert, the sinister bespectacled Carl who lurks who has a knack of making himself invisible, the cocky reckless Steve, and the seemingly harmless old gent - Hans - who will kill without thinking twice.
Munich is a pacy thriller - the hit squad are portrayed as heroes with a mission to find and kill the 'baddies' - and the audience are eager to see if they will succeed. Spielberg manipulates us so that we are rooting for the Mossad team, and he doesn't encourage us to question if what they are doing is right.
Everytime they track down one of the terrorists, and plan an elaborate way to bump him off (exploding telephones, bombs activated by someone climbing into bed), we are happy to see one more evil figure crossed off the list.
However, the film has a sad undercurrent, as the hitmen are isolated and disturbed figures. It is clear how much Avner misses his wife and baby (there is a heartbreaking scene when the infant babbles to him over the phone). Not much is know much about the personal lives of the other four heroes, but they are clearly lonely and confused, despite the succeeding in their plans.
The film goes to great lengths to indicate how much Jews value having their own state, but it doesn't confront the obvious moral questions generated by the plot.
Is 'an eye for an eye' the best approach to take, when responding to murder? Judging by how much misery the hit men ultimately suffer, and the sacrifices they make, the answer seems to be no.
Munich is out now. Certificate 15.