After Palestinian terrorists infiltrate the Munch Olympic Village in 1972, taking Israeli athletes hostage, a shoot-out at the airport results in the deaths of several terrorists and all the athletes. Stung by the event, Israel sends a secret Mossad team into Europe to find the leaders and perpetrators to assassinate them all, led by agent Avner (Eric Bana), under the control of Case Officer Ephraim (Geoffrey Rush). Steve (Daniel Craig), Carl (Ciaran Hinds), Robert (Mathieu Kassovitz) and Hans (Hanns Zischler) make contact with the mysterious Louis (Mathieu Amalric) who helps them track down their targets one by one. Avner leaves behind his pregnant wife to avenge Munich, but eventually begins to question his mission\'s value.
 

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Spielberg should stick to fantasy.

The Colour Purple (1985), Empire Of The Sun (1987), Amistad (1997), Saving Private Ryan (1998) and Schindler's List (1993) are regarded as Steven Spielberg's 'serious' films, in a canon largely made up of big-boned FX-driven adventures and thrilling blockbusters. Munich is the latest of his films that can be added that list, a historical period drama with political edge.

It takes us back to the 1972 Olympics, ironically dubbed the 'Peace and Joy Games'- where in spectacular fashion it all went horribly wrong. In 1972 the world watched in horror as eleven Israeli athletes were taken hostage at the Munich Olympics by a Palestinian terrorist group calling themselves Black September. Designed to shine a spotlight on the Palestinian cause, the siege ended in utter disaster with the deaths of all hostages and the three remaining kidnappers set free only weeks later by the German government. In retaliation the Israeli government, helmed by stoic Prime Minister Golda Meir, dispatched a secret crew of assassins to execute those responsible and then some.

Eric Bana (The Hulk), Daniel Craig (Love Is The Devil, the new James Bond) and French actor/director Mathieu Kassovitz (La Haine) are among the five leads who play the clandestine killers. Geoffrey Rush (Shine) also has a pivotal role as manipulative Mossad head, Ephraim.Kevin McDonald's meticulous, Oscar-winning documentary One Day In September (1999) has already taken us well into the intricacies of the very public Munich Olympics disaster, a gripping real-life story that unfolded under the bright glare of the media spotlight. Spielberg's dramatic Munich instead looks at the events that occurred afterwards in the shadows of international espionage and retribution. He takes that tragic event as his starting point. With the help of screenwriters Eric Roth (The Insider) and Tony Kushner (Angels In America), and based in part on George Jonas' non-fiction novel, Munich is Spielberg's attempt to fashion a piece of what Kushner calls 'historical fiction'.

It is a character-based thriller inspired by taut '70s films like The Parallax View (1974) and Three Days Of The Condor (1975). I admit that often I have found Spielberg's historical films more problematic than his blockbusters. They seem to rewrite history according to his particular views on the world, either overshadowed by his personal political agenda or, simple exercises in rhetoric. Munich is no exception. While beautifully cast, directed and crafted, including appropriately uncensored, shocking violence - I found it remarkably dull and unaffecting, even though it was reaching for far more.

Some people may find it provocative, courageous even, that Spielberg - the very maker of Schindler's List - has included both the Israeli and Palestinian sides of the argument. Or that he has portrayed Bana's Mossad character Avner as a moral hero trapped in an immoral situation, compromised by having to carry out immoral deeds. But it's apropos of not much, adding up to not much more than insipid. Sci-fi epic War of the Worlds was a far more powerful and profound exercise in humanist, political drama. Perhaps Steven Spielberg should stick to what he does best: making political statements about the world through fantasy instead of history.