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|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E||
dir Steven Spielberg|
scr Tony Kushner, Eric Roth
with Eric Bana, Daniel Craig, Mathieu Kassovitz, Ciarán Hinds, Hanns Zischler, Geoffrey Rush, Mathieu Amalric, Michael Lonsdale, Ayelet Zorer, Lynn Cohen, Gila Almagor, Moritz Bliebtreu, Yvan Attal
release US 23.Dec.05,
Counter-terrorists, or the real thing? Kassovitz and Bana
Like Kushner's Angels in America and Roth's Forrest Gump, this astonishingly personal drama about terrorism muffles its vital message with a sprawling, overloaded narrative. The earnest, artistic approach is far too indulgent, but the themes the film examines are urgent and essential.
Following the horrific events of the Munich 1972 Olympics, Israel vows revenge, hiring an obscure soldier Avner (Bana) to lead an assassination squad to track down the Palestinians responsible for killing 11 Israeli Olympians. His colleagues are a South African driver (Craig), a Belgian toy/bomb maker (Kassovitz), a clean-up expert (Hinds) and a German forgery specialist (Zischler). Taking their orders from a phantom boss (Rush) they travel around Europe dealing out sudden "justice". But the escalating violence eventually takes its toll.
The writers cleverly graft fictional characters onto real events, pulling us into the situations and the moral dilemmas. Bana is terrific as the human soul at the film's centre, a man who leaves his heavily pregnant wife (Zorer) to serve a larger cause, then slowly discovers what he's helped unleash. His internal struggle is deeply compelling, and he gets fine support from everyone around him, especially Craig as a man who deals in sure things, but finds the world to be grounded on shifting sands.
Spielberg and his adept crew give the film a startling tone that echoes gritty 1970s thrillers and really cranks up the suspense from time to time (although he relies too heavily on children in peril). Janusz Kaminski's cinematography strips all but essential colours from each scene, while John William's evocative score quietly underlines the emotion and suspense. This is such expert filmmaking that the meandering length is a surprising misstep.
The episodic structure simply wears us out--one more assassination, one more thing going wrong, one more emotive confrontation about the increasingly grey morality. But this is a starkly relevant, important story that intensely depicts how responding to terror with revenge only leads to more violence. "There is no peace at the end of this," Avner sighs. And in his haunted, paranoid, yearning face, we know exactly what he's talking about.
Jason Munn, Adelaide, Australia: "Steven Spielberg is a talented filmmaker, we all know that. I have studied his work all my life. Maybe it is this reason I found myself a little disturbed, not by the story or what is happening, but how the more violent scenes were approached, captured with all the bravura of an Indiana Jones set piece. Yes, I like to have my jaw on the ground from an exciting action moment, captured brilliantly by the man who does it best, but I was quite embarrassed to see these techniques used in a story that is 'inspired' by true events. Even though these set pieces are extremely well done, I just do not believe it was appropriate for this story. The film is simply too long, heavy with a script that is brilliantly written, but a little excessive. However, even with these criticisms, it's still an amazing film. It seems Spielberg is the only filmmaker who can fall down in certain areas (sometimes drastically) but still emerge with an amazing film." (3.Feb.06)
Adam Stokes, London: "This is a challenging and thought-provoking piece of work. It is not as complete a film as Schindler's List or Saving Private Ryan, but neither is it as sentimental nor cynical in its emotional stance. It asks questions that it doesn't try to answer and has a moral ambivalence that is commendable but leads to a somewhat cumbersome and unwieldy feel. It is also shockingly violent - more so than Private Ryan - not because of the body count but the feel of each killing. There are savage, cold-blooded, pre-meditated MURDERS committed by both sides, but they are completely relevant to the story. You are left in no doubt that a human being is being slaughtered - not just an extra as part of a set-piece action sequence. It is easy to pick holes in this very long film (it does drag a bit), but then again it would have been easy for Spielberg to make a much blander and entertaining bit of propaganda that doesn't affect the soul so powerfully." (8.Feb.06)
© 2005 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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