the 40 year old virgin

oscar run x: munich

I remarked about Syriana that the narrative confusion was appropriate, if less than enjoyable, because it reflected our very real confusion when confronted with the murkiness of modern international politics. Munich deals with a different kind of confusion, one that is not narrative but moral. I'm not sure if the confusion is appropriate here, or even if "appropriate" is what matters. Certainly the film has as a central theme the ambiguous nature of contemporary morality, on both the individual and national level. And I'm not asking Spielberg to pick a side. But the message I get from Munich is that it is pretty much impossible in the world of today to live without compromise, that, overtly or just within our own hearts, we are forced to accept actions which we don't approve of.

This is an unsettling and depressing conclusion, and there is no one in Munich who is not touched by compromises, big and small. I'm all for unsettling and depressing ... it's hard for me to get this right, there is something about the tone of the film that isn't quite sloppy enough for the theme of compromise. Perhaps Spielberg can't help himself ... he's such an accomplished filmmaker that when he films a scene of characters and actions out of control, we're always aware of the controlling hand of the director, which to some extent defeats the purpose.

If it's not already obvious, I'm ambivalent about Munich. It's an interesting approach to its subject, intelligent more than emotional (Spielberg is certainly capable of wrenching the tears from our eyes, but he avoids that here), with scenes of great skill. It's also too long, the acting is variable (there's some great acting here, and then there's Eric Bana, who, to be fair, seems to be playing his role as Spielberg desires), and the cumulative power Spielberg seems to be shooting for doesn't quite come off. I'm one who thinks Spielberg is capable of great movies, good movies, and mediocre movies ... this one is good, much better than War of the Worlds, but not great (my favorite of his films remains Close Encounters of the Third Kind). The movie is nominated for five Oscars (none for acting, which is telling), and I guess I'd vote for the editor over the director, the writer, or the composer. 8/10. [Edited to add: I'm not sure why I gave this such a high rating ... I think I need to see it again.]


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