Last December, I received an invitation to attend a free preview screening of Steven Spielberg's new film, Munich.
My shorthand reaction to the movie is that it was worth every penny that I paid to see it. But given Spielberg's moral ambitions for this flick, as well as the splash it is making in the media, I suppose that it deserves something more than mere flippancy and sarcasm.
As my office-mates at the Australia/Israel and Jewish Affairs Council will attest, one of my all-time favourite movies is Full Metal Jacket. I have seen that flick so many times I can give a verbatim recitation of the ferocious welcoming address given by Gunnery Sergeant Hartman to his new marines ("I am hard, but I am fair").
So the thing is, I should have loved this film. It features all the finer items that guys tend to appreciate in cinema: car chases, shoot-outs, explosions galore and the odd sex scene.
But my testosterone-driven fun was ruined by the factual implausibility and thinly veiled sanctimony that pervade the movie from start to finish.
To the factual problems, first. There's artistic licence, and then there's just plain taking licence with the truth. And while Steven Spielberg claims that Munich is based on historical events, real players in the drama of Israeli intelligence have savaged the movie for its patent inaccuracies.
Most of this can be traced to the source of its script, a much-derided book about a Mossad reprisal operation by Canadian journalist George Jonas entitled Vengeance.
After Palestinian terrorists massacred 11 Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics, the Mossad conducted a reprisal that targeted the PLO's Black September movement.
So far, so good. But that is where any semblance of fact ends. Both Vengeance, and Spielberg's cinematic incarnation of the book tell a tale of cloaks and daggers, spies and shootouts and derring-do.
But even before the film was released, retired Mossad operatives went semi-public to sneer at the sheer fatuousness of the plot.
A story by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency quoted the comments of a retired Mossad deputy director who insisted on remaining anonymous: "There was never a list of single targets drawn up, and certainly never a single hit team designed to handle them. It was a matter of putting the word out for our people who were posted in various countries to look out for top Black September members. When these were located, then we sent out the right agents to take care of business, on a more ad-hoc basis."
So much for the main theme of Spielberg's new movie.
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