AFI Catalog of Feature Films
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Munich
Director: Steven Spielberg (Dir)
Release Date:   23 Dec 2005
Duration (in mins):  164 or 167
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Cast: Eric Bana  (Avner [Kauffman])
  Daniel Craig  (Steve)
  Ciaran Hinds  (Carl [Habibi])
 

Summary: In the early morning hours of 5 September 1972 at the height of the Olympic Games in Munich, West Germany, a group of eight men disguised as competitors arrive at a lightly guarded fence at the Olympic Village. With the assistance of drunken American athletes sneaking back into the village, the men, part of an extremist faction of the Palestinian Liberation Organization known as Black September, climb the barrier. Armed with assault rifles and grenades hidden in their sports bags, the men break into a dormitory housing a number of Israeli athletes and after killing two of the resisting Israelis, take nine others hostage. Over the next twenty-three hours, people in the Middle East and all over the world watch the continual television news coverage of the terrorist attack, which ends tragically when the terrorists murder the nine Israelis and German security kills five of the Palestinians. Two weeks later in Jerusalem, General Zvi Zamir, the head of Mossad, the Israeli intelligence agency, escorts Israeli-born agent Avner Kauffman to a meeting with Prime Minister Golda Meir and various ministers. Despite Israel’s retaliatory aerial and ground strikes against P.L.O. guerrilla bases on the Syrian and Lebanese borders, Zamir informs Avner that the prime minister has approved an additional clandestine operation to track down the Black September instigators of the Munich attack. Avner, Meir’s former bodyguard, agrees to consider participating in the mission, even though he has no experience as a field agent and knows he has been chosen because he grew up partially in Europe, prompting Meir to declare that Avner reminds her of his war-hero father. Avner is then left with Ephraim, his case handler, who informs him that he will lead four pre-selected agents to locate, track and murder eleven Palestinians known to have contributed to the Munich plot. Ephraim explains that as the Israeli government will have no official connection to the mission, Avner must officially resign from Mossad. Avner is advised that the team must work exclusively in Western Europe and will be provided salaries and funding in U.S. dollars deposited in Swiss bank safe-deposit boxes. Later, Avner tells his pregnant wife Daphna that he has accepted a secret government assignment that will take him away for several months. A few days later in Geneva, Avner meets his team members: Belgian toymaker and explosives specialist Robert; South Afrikaner car expert Steve; older, stoic German “cleanup” man Carl Habibi and antique dealer Hans, in charge of documents and accounting. The following week, the team begins their mission in Rome using information provided by Avner’s old school friend Andreas and his associate Tony. After stalking and killing former Black September member Wael Zwaiter, a Palestinian translator, Avner and the others travel to Paris. There, Tony puts Avner in contact with Louis, a mysterious underground informer who, for sizeable payments, provides location information on anyone with the stipulation that no governments are involved in the exchange. The men are then shocked to hear the news that the hijacking of a German Lufthansa jet has resulted in the release of the three surviving Black September members involved in the Munich attack. Galvanized, the team focuses on their next target, Mahmoud Hamshari, the French representative of Black September. After a lengthy and careful setup that provides the team with details of the apartment Hamshari shares with his wife and young daughter, the men place an explosive in Hamshari’s telephone that will be detonated manually after a team member calls. On the day of the strike, however, the operation is abruptly aborted when Hamshari’s daughter unexpectedly returns home and answers the booby-trapped phone. The mission proceeds later when Hamshari is alone, but when the explosion does not immediately kill him, Robert is disturbed. Hamshari dies days later, while Avner takes a quick, unauthorized trip to Israel to visit Daphna, who gives birth to their daughter. Knowing it will be difficult to return to Israel again, Avner asks Daphna if she would consent to relocate to New York City, and although she is disappointed to remain alone in a strange country, Daphna agrees. On information again provided by Louis, the team reunites in Nicosia, Cyprus where their target is Hussein Abad Al-Chir, a P.L.O. organizer and liaison to the Soviet K.G.B. Promising more accurate results, Robert devises an explosive that is hidden in Abad Al-Chir’s hotel mattress to be detonated after a signal from Avner in the room next door. The resulting blast is enormous, breaking through to Avner, who escapes uninjured with Carl’s help. Later, under questioning, Robert insists the plastic explosive was a higher grade than requested and reveals the material was provided by Louis, prompting the group to grow suspicious of their shadowy contact. Nevertheless, when the Frenchman subsequently provides information that three names on the target list are in Beirut, Avner seeks approval for the hit through Ephraim. Angered when Avner refuses to reveal his source’s identity, Ephraim nevertheless reluctantly approves the attack, even though he had earlier told Avner that he could go after targets in Europe only. The men join a larger Israeli commando force in a fierce assault against the Lebanese P.L.O. stronghold where targets Kamal Nasser, Kemal Adwan and Abu Youssuf are killed with many others. Some days later, the team regroups back in Paris, where Louis takes Avner to a spacious country farmhouse to meet the leader of his organization, his father, who is known to Avner only as “Papa.” At a large family afternoon meal, Papa tells Avner that since his involvement in the French Resistance during World War II, he has been distrustful of all governments. Papa states he will overlook Avner leaking the terrorists’ Beirut location to Israeli officials but cautions Avner not to involve any government again. Back in Paris, Avner demands that Louis provide the whereabouts of Ali Hassan Salameh, a well-known, high-ranking Palestinian, designated as the creator of the Munich plot. Insisting that Salameh is too difficult a target, Louis instead provides Zaid Muchassi, the replacement for Abad Al-Chir in Athens. Although Muchassi is not on the list, Avner decides to target him, which prompts unease among the team. On the team’s first night in the Athen’s safe house recommended by Louis, they are stunned when a group of Palestinians arrive to use the same hideout, forcing Avner's team to hastily identify themselves as members of the extremist Red Army Faction of the German underground. While smoking outside, Avner speaks Arabic with a Palestinian, Ali, who expresses his confidence that one day his people will have a nation and a homeland of their own. The next day, using dated explosive material provided by Louis, Robert places a bomb inside the television in Muchassi’s hotel room. In the early morning, Muchassi returns to his hotel escorted by a number of Russians and, to Avner’s surprise, Ali and the Palestinians. Upon receiving the signal that Muchassi has retired alone to his room, Robert activates the remote control detonator but there is no explosion. After several attempts fail, Hans rushes into the hotel and, breaking down the victim’s door, hurls more bombs at the television, setting off the original explosives. After helping Hans out of the hotel, Avner and the others engage in a brief gunfight with the Russians and the Palestinians in which Ali is killed. The team members panic upon realizing they have also killed a Soviet agent and wonder about repercussions. Later, Robert and Steve complain that Louis may be sabotaging their efforts. Although uncertain, Avner agrees to pay Louis well when the Frenchman reveals that Salameh is in London meeting with American C.I.A. agents for whom he provides information. In London, Avner and the men stalk the well-guarded Salameh and decide to make a risky street attack. That night as Avner, Steve and Robert move in on their target, however, a group of drunken Americans swarm around them, mistaking them for former acquaintances. In the ensuing confusion, Salameh disappears. Afterward, the frustrated team speculates that the “drunk” Americans were C.I.A. agents protecting Salameh. Back at the hotel an unsettled Avner sits at the bar, where an attractive young woman flirts with him. On his way to his room later, Avner runs into Carl and playfully tells him about the woman at the bar. With several months having passed since Avner has seen Daphna, he telephones her and is moved to tears when he hears his baby daughter already able to speak. Disturbed, Avner returns to the bar, but unable to find Carl, returns upstairs where he smells the woman’s distinctive perfume. Amused and abruptly concerned, Avner goes to Carl’s room and finds his partner shot to death in bed. Seeking assistance from Papa and Louis, Avner learns that the woman in the hotel is Jeanette, a well-known Dutch assassin. Louis suggests that the team’s killing a Russian has now made them targets, but Avner resolves to go after Jeanette. Robert protests, insisting that despite the retaliatory nature of their mission, Jews are meant to be “righteous.” Without consulting Ephraim, Avner, Steve and Hans proceed to Hoorn, Holland where they locate and kill Jeanette on her private houseboat. Back on the continent during a lull when no intelligence is forthcoming, Avner grows increasingly anxious, checking and rechecking his surroundings for fear that he has become a target. His paranoia grows when in Frankfurt, Hans goes missing and is later discovered knifed to death on a park bench. Fearful that Papa and Louis may have betrayed them, Avner decides the remaining team members should lay low for a period, but soon after learns that Robert has accidentally blown himself up in Belgium while fashioning a new bomb. Distraught, Avner confronts Louis for assurance that Robert was not murdered, and swearing that he has not given them up, Louis then directs Avner to Spain, where Salameh is attending a large political gathering. Avner and Steve proceed there alone and successfully breach the fence of the well-defended Palestinian compound. Upon being discovered by an armed teenager, the pair just manage to escape in a hail of gunfire. Later the men are picked up by Israeli soldiers and, in Tel Aviv at a debriefing, Steve tells Ephraim of their suspicions about Papa and Louis, but Avner refuses to reveal further details about their identity or how to contact them. With the mission now officially terminated, Avner visits his mother, who insists that constant world persecution of Jews justifies all actions taken to defend Israel. Avner returns to Brooklyn, where, despite his happiness at being with Daphna and their daughter, he is overcome with thoughts of the Munich massacre and his two-year mission of vengeance. Obsessed with the thought that he and his family are now being targeted, Avner contacts Papa who promises Avner no harm will come from him. Avner’s subsequent visit to the Israeli consul demanding to know if he is being hunted results in a visit from Ephraim. Needing assurance that the mission was legitimate, Avner insists on proof that the Palestinians killed were indeed connected to the Olympic murders. Ephraim dismisses Avner’s distress and reveals that Avner’s team was only one of several sent on the same mission. Ephraim criticizes Avner for remaining in New York, accusing him of abandoning Israel, but when Avner attempts to make amends by inviting him to dinner, Ephraim refuses. Alone, Avner returns home. 

Distribution Company: Universal Pictures
Production Company: DreamWorks SKG
Alliance Atlantis Communications
Amblin Entertainment
Director: Steven Spielberg (Dir)
  Adam Somner (1st asst dir)
  Zsuzsa Gurbán (1st asst dir, Budapest unit)
  Jérome Borenstein (1st asst dir, Paris unit)
  Emma Horton (Key 2d asst dir)
  Tamás Vass (2d asst dir, Budapest unit)
  Ali Cherkaoui (2d asst dir, Paris unit)
  Ian Stone (2d asst dir, New York unit)
  Will Dodds (Co-2d asst dir)
  Pierre Ellul (2d 2d asst dir)
  Eric Lasko (2d 2d asst dir, New York unit)
  Gary Rake (Addl 2d asst dir, New York unit)
  Kevin Walsh (3rd asst dir)
  Paul Bennett (3rd asst dir)
  Gergo Fülöp (3rd asst dir, Budapest unit)
  Colin Azzopardi (3rd asst dir, Malta unit)
  Ariane Lacan (3rd asst dir, Paris unit)
Producer: Kathleen Kennedy (Prod)
  Steven Spielberg (Prod)
  Barry Mendel (Prod)
  Colin Wilson (Prod)
Writer: Tony Kushner (Scr)
  Eric Roth (Scr)

Subject Major: Assassins
  Israel
  Jews
  Justice
  Murder
  Palestinians
  Revenge
  Special agents
  Terrorists and terrorism
  Undercover operations
 
Subject Minor: Accidental death
  Athens (Greece)
  Banks
  Bars
  Bombs
  Cooks
  Cyprus
  Espionage
  Ethics
  Explosions
  Family relationships
  Fear
  Food
  French
  Guilt
  Gunfights
  Hostages
  Impersonation and imposture
  London (England)
  Golda Meir
  Mossad
  Mothers and sons
  Munich (Germany)
  Nationalism
  The Netherlands
  New York City--Brooklyn
  Olympic Games
  Paranoia
  Paris (France)
  Pregnancy
  Radios
  Reporters
  Rome (Italy)
  Television news and information
  Wives

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.
 
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