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I saw Munich last week.

First of all it was too friggin long. Moviemakers need to rein in their impulses, hire good editors, and trim their movies down. What Spielberg said in 3 hours, he could have said in 2, and much more effectively.

For those who don't know, the movie is about the Israeli response to the kidnapping and murder of a group of Israeli atheletes by Palestinian terrorists at the 1972 Munich Olympics. I saw a documentary on this subject a couple of years ago, and it primarily focused on the incompetence of the German officials and police forces.

Spielberg, though, doesn't even really touch on this. He's interested in the moral issues surrounding how Israel should respond to such barbarism. Well, they respond in kind. They put a group of secret agents off the books and cut them loose to assassinate everyone involved in the incident.

But there are sticky issues like proof, and certainty that the people they're killing were really involved (or to what extent they were involved). And of course with each person they knock off, there is a reprisal, letter bombs, shootings, and assassinations pointed in the other direction. Also, each person they kill seems to be replaced by someone twice as bad. Spielberg certainly seems to be saying that this cycle of violence is senseless and neverending.

Ah, so...what to do then. Per the title of this blog, the kind of criticism Spielberg offers is Grade-Two thinking. It's all well and good to preach about how bad killing and violence is.

But I found myself wondering what Spielberg might think an appropriate response to the Munich horrors might have been. He took great pains to be seemingly objective, but the film most definitely had a viewpoint: that responding to violence in kind is a bad idea. You know, the whole "and eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind".

And yet, this is the same director who created Saving Private Ryan, which showed some of the senselessness and dehumanization of war, but was essentially an homage to WWII veterans. So is responding to violence with violence always bad? Or just in this particular case?

Should the Israelis simply have sent a fruit basket to the PLO instead of assassins? Should they have done nothing? Unfortunately, Spielberg gave me too damn much time during his film, too many slow spots, to chew on this stuff. And it undercut what could have been a tight, solid, powerful film. As it stands, it's sluggish and preachy, condemning the cycle of violence without so much as offering a hint of how the cycle might be broken.

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