Movies: A Tale of Bloody Wrath; MUNICH (15) **** Daniel Craig's New Film Recalls the Horror of the Munich Olympics

Article excerpt

Byline: Joe Riley

FEW contemporary filmmakers manage to straddle the divide between multiplex and art-house quite so effortlessly as Steven Spielberg.

In 1993, he demonstrated his box office clout and an ability to prick consciences and arouse debate with the Oscar-winning double whammy of Jurassic Park and Schindler's List.

Now, following the slam-bang pyrotechnics of War Of The Worlds, Spielberg recreates another harrowing episode in recent Jewish history.

Starring Wirral's own James Bond, Daniel Craig, Munich is a heart-rending account of the aftermath of the 1972 Summer Olympics where an extremist Palestinian group called Black September kidnapped nine Israeli athletes from the Olympic village, killing two others.

The deaths of the terrorists and their hostages and Israel's subsequent mission of retribution to avenge the outrage would seem an emotionally charged subject, fraught with moral ambiguity.

Yet Spielberg's film distances itself from the characters and their anguish, denying us any lasting emotional connection in this human drama.

Moreover, screenwriter Tony Kushner, working from George Jonas's contentious book Vengeance: The True Story Of An Israeli Counter-Terrorist Team, sits uncomfortably on the political fence, casting sympathetic glances at both sides.

Spielberg's technical virtuosity is never in doubt, however.

He orchestrates a series of unbearably tense setpieces, including the botched detonation of a bomb (concealed in a telephone) in the French capital, which appears destined to kill innocent bystanders as well as the intended target.

Janusz Kaminski's crisp, colour-bleached cinematography works in harmony with impeccable production design and editor Michael Kahn, whose only misstep is to inter-cut a lovemaking scene with nightmarish flashbacks to the final doomed minutes in Munich. …