HPPUB MOVIE REVIEWs of One Day in September, Munich


Title: One Day in September

Release Date: 2000

Nationality and Language: USA, English

Running time: about 90 Minutes

MPAA Rating:  PG-13

Distributor and Production Company:  Sony Pictures Classics

Director; Writer:


Cast:   narrator: Mike Wallace


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Review: Sony Pictures Classics has distributed this important documentary (2001) about the terrorist attack on the Israeli Olympic team at Munich on September 5, 1972, when at first two and then the remaining nine hostages would be brutally assassinated, after a clumsy attempt at rescue at the Munich airport.  Later the West German government would hand over Palestinian prisoners after an airline hijacking that seemed staged deliberately (the enormous effort on airport security would soon follow). An important point, however (and this does not excuse the crimes in the film), is that Palestinians really had been displaced and had property confiscated after the modern state of Israel was set up.  The capitulation of the Germans to terrorists, and then, in 1985, of Italians on the Achille Lauro incident (where Leon Klinghoffer was murdered) is often cited as evidence that one cannot appease or negotiate with terrorists.


I was actually changing jobs that day and preparing to leave home for my “Second Coming.”  I had just gotten back from West Germany myself when this incident occurred. 


I want to see more of these documentaries, but see “larger” ones.  Michael Douglas is most effective as a narrator.


Munich (2005, Universal/Dreamworks/Amblin, dir. Steven Spielberg, based on the book “Vengeance” by George Jonas, music by John Williams) starts with a grotesque montage reenactment of the Munich tragedy and goes on to tell the story of a Mossad agent (Eric Bana) who hunts down up to 9 of the 11 terrorists and picks them off, sometimes with hotel bombs, sometimes as a sniper. The tactics are pretty generic 60s thriller genre, and the violence graphic, as Avner guns down terrorists in cold blood after encountering them. In one scene, he kills a (female) prostitute on a house boat, and she is shown nude after her demise. In another a tag team, half of them in drag, land in Beirut from the Mediterranean. Much of the film was shot in Hungary and Cyprus.


Much has been made of the viewpoint of the film, justifying countering terrorism with state supported pseudo-terrorism and violence. When enlisting Avner, Gold Meir (Lynn Cohen) admits that sometimes a democracy has to go outside of its own values. Avner at one point says that he is helping his people secure their own little place on the planet. Toward the end, Avner becomes super protective of his family, from which he has been separated, as he goes back to Brooklyn. There seems to be an insinuation that a “man” should serve the collective purposes of his own people and family and not decide on his own purposes. That’s a little surprising at this point in a Spielberg film. The final scene shows Manhattan from the East River, with the Twin Towers, and particularly the Waterside Apartments, which I considered renting in 1974 (but wound up in the Cast Iron Building). Plenty of personal déjà vu.  


A companion piece to Spielberg’s film would be the Discovery Channel’s one hour “Operation X.”


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