Munich | Sophie Scholl: The Final Days

Munich warrants controversy but not the controversy it got. Political columnists accused the Steven Spielberg production of morally equating Israeli Mossad agents hunting down terrorists with the terrorists themselves who deliberately target innocents. I certainly agree with this moral distinction between the real-life foes, but Munich, in fact, shows us the Mossad strike force, charged with avenging the slaying of the 1972 Olympic Israeli team, as always scrupulously careful in their tracking and killing of the murderers. Conversely, when a Palestinian terrorist expounds his mission to a man he considers sympathetic to his cause (in reality Avner, the Mossad squad leader incognito), his diatribe is a tissue of apocalyptic fantasy and fanaticism, fired by idealism to be sure, but indifferent to innocent bystanders. There is scarcely any moment in the Spielberg film when we fail to sympathize with the Israeli agents, no matter what compunctions we may have about their mission.

Yet no one friendly to Israel need feel friendly to this film. The sympathy we feel for the Mossad agents, especially for the heroic protagonist (well played by Eric Bana), is a lever that the filmmakers use to make us antipathetic to Israel itself, or at least the post-1967 Israel that so extended itself through martial conquest. The scriptwriter Tony Kushner is, I assume, the decisive voice of the movie. Co-writer Eric Roth is a skilled...

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About the Author

Richard Alleva has been reviewing movies for Commonweal since 1990.