In 1972 Palestinians massacred Israeli athletes during the Olympics. As a consequence of that action, Golda Meir decided to authorize the assassination of the Palestinians who were involved.
This film is about the men who performed the act of vengence that Golda demanded.
Watching the movie, I was struck by the difference in the kind of terrorist we faced in the 1970’s versus the kind of terrorist we face now. In the 1970’s the terrorist was a poet who translated Arabian Nights into English who lived in Italy and had book readings. Or a sophisticated literate man who had a house in Paris, a daughter that went to a French school, and a wife that was very westernized. These were men who, you must believe, we could have negotiated with. They were, in their unreasonableness, reasonable.
And who do we have today? We have butchers who revel in their oppression of women, their beheadings of journalists, in their slavish devotion to a perverted form of Islam, and their messianic faith in final ultimate victory. These new men are not men we can negotiate with.
Yet, like Golda said, we can not let the butchers think that they can butcher us wherever and whenever they please. Avner, the leader of the assassin’s asks his mother whether she would like to know what he had to do for Israel. Avner’s mother says no. Avner’s actions protect her home and are therefore holy in her eyes. And that is the essence of our conundrum. To protect our homes we must do horrible things.
I wonder sometimes. In the 1970’s and 1980’s the British imprisoned the IRA gunmen. When they came out of prison much older men, their desire for blood had been quenched. Perhaps there is a parable there? Perhaps if we imprisoned these men, and then brought them out of prison 20, 30, 40 years later, perhaps they too would speak of peace and not of vengence?
I don’t know. I just know, like Avner, that we killed one set of killers to replace them with a new set of killers.
The film itself is an extremely well done period piece. Like anything Spielberg does the direction, the filmography itself is masterful. Unlike many things Spielberg does, the story was not heavy handed, the morality not rammed down our throats. Instead, Spielberg is able to restrain himself until the very end of the film when he drags out the end for 30 minutes.
Spielberg makes no claims about historical accuracy, this is a film, not a documentary, and so commenting on the facts of the film seems silly.
There were one fun moment. The Israeli assassins are relying on a French syndicate that trades information to find their Arabs. The French syndicate sends them to Athens, Greece and tells them of a safe house in Athens. It turns out that a completely different set of assassins are in Paris with information also supplied by the French syndicate that is staying in the SAME hotel room. I could not help but wonder at the absurdity of the event.
Definitely worth watching.