Picks and Pans Review: Munich

updated 01/09/2006 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 01/09/2006 AT 01:00 AM EST

Eric Bana, Daniel Craig, Ciaran Hinds, Geoffrey Rush

In the months following the slaughter of 11 Israeli athletes by Palestinian terrorists at the 1972 Olympics in Munich, Israeli agent Avner Kauffman (Bana) is assigned to track down those involved in the killings and assassinate them. With each target that Kauffman and his small band of helpers knock off, the more the Mossad veteran comes to question his mission and its long-term consequences. “Every man we killed has been replaced by someone worse,” he says.

Those who like their thrillers neat, clean and free of moral and political ambiguities should steer clear of director Steven Spielberg's Munich. It isn't easy viewing, but it's most definitely worth seeing. Helped greatly by a thoughtful screenplay by playwright Tony Kushner (Angels in America) and Eric Roth, Spielberg probes the notion of revenge. There are bravura, Hitchcockian sequences (notably, a nail-biter involving a little girl's safety), but Munich, which was inspired by real events, is less compelling as a character drama than as one of ideas. What resonates days after seeing it, a point driven home by the movie's evocative final shot, is that the events depicted in Munich can't be relegated to history. All too bloodily, they reverberate still. (R)

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