Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Movie reviews: Israeli assassins double feature

By pure coincidence, the last two movies I've watched have featured Israeli assassins.
Munich, Steven Spielberg's latest, deals with the aftermath of the murder of eleven Israeli athletes at the 1972 Olympics in Munich. A team of surprisingly undertrained men are recruited by the Israeli government and assigned the task of tracking down and killing the Palestinian terrorists suspected in orchestrating the attack in Munich. Over the course of the film, the leader of the squad, Avner, evolves from an ordinary man into an apt and haunted assassin. He and the other team members travel through Europe, facing the challenge of relying on informants who they do not completely trust, the knowledge that they themselves are being hunted, as well as their own moral and ethical doubts. Overall, I liked this movie. It did break my two hour rule and therefore could have used a little paring down. The casting was excellent, and Spielberg made the right choice in selecting relatively unknown (in the U.S., at least) actors as to not overshadow the story itself. Eric Bana, the most recognizable in the least until the new Bond movie comes out, is completely believable as Avner. I especially enjoyed the performance of Ciaran Hinds as the Carl.

The second movie I watched was an Israeli film called Walk on Water, which, unlike Munich, takes place in current times. After the suicide of his wife, a Mossad (think CIA) agent, Eyal, is taken off of active duty and given an unusual assignment by his superiors, as punishment for his refusal to go to counseling. He is to act as a tour guide for a young German brother and sister, whose grandfather was a Nazi war criminal who went into hiding after the war, and attempt to befriend them to find out whether their grandfather is still alive and, if so, his whereabouts. He spends most of the time traveling through the country with the brother, Axel, tall, friendly, liberal, gay, and the polar opposite of the serious and fierce Eyal. The actor who plays Axel slightly resembles Dirk Nowitzki, so it was kind of like watching Dirk play a goofy, gay German tourist. Distracting, to say the least. At first, Eyal resents the assignment as nothing more than a babysitting job, and becomes irate when Axel voices his sympathy for the Palestinians. Eyal counters by asking Axel what it's like to grow up German, and suddenly realize that your parents and grandparents were responsible for the Holocaust. Over time, Eyal can't help but befriend the sweet-natured Axel, and through bugging the apartment where Axel and his sister are staying, discovers the family secret. I liked this movie; it touches on several interesting political topics and provides complicated and sympathetic characters. The plot was a bit on the predictable side, especially the ending, but other than that, I enjoyed it.

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