During the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich, eleven Israeli athletes are taken hostage and murdered by a Palestinian terrorist group known as Black September.
In retaliation, the Israeli government recruits a group of Mossad agents to track down and execute those responsible for the attack.
Munich begins with a depiction of the events of the 1972 Munich Olympics and then cuts to the home of Prime Minister of Israel Golda Meir, where Avner Kaufman (Eric Bana), an Israeli-born Mossad agent of German-Jewish descent, is chosen to lead an assassination mission against 11 Palestinians allegedly involved in the massacre. To give the Israeli government plausible deniability and at the direction of his handler Ephraim (Geoffrey Rush), Avner resigns from Mossad and operates with no official ties to Israel. His team includes four Jewish volunteers from around the world: South African driver Steve (Daniel Craig), Belgian toy-maker and explosives expert Robert (Mathieu Kassovitz), former Israeli soldier and "cleaner" Carl (Ciarán Hinds), and a document forger named Hans (Hanns Zischler). They are given information by a shadowy French informant, Louis (Mathieu Amalric).
In Rome, the team shoots and kills Abdel Wael Zwaiter, who is broke and living as a poet. In Paris, they detonate a bomb in the home of Mahmoud Hamshari; in Cyprus, they bomb the hotel room of Hussein Al Bashir (Hussein Abd Al Chir). With Israel Defense Forces (IDF) commandos, they pursue three Palestinians to Beirut--Muhammad Youssef al-Najjar (Abu Youssef); Kamal Adwan; and Kamal Nasser, a Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) spokesman--penetrating the Palestinians' guarded compound and killing all three.
Between hits, the often-reluctant assassins argue about the morality and logistics of their mission, expressing fear about their individual lack of experience, as well as ambivalence about implicating innocent bystanders. Avner makes a brief visit to his wife, who has given birth to their first baby. In Athens, he has a heartfelt conversation with a PLO member who is sharing the same safe house; he later sees this man killed during a hit on a target named Zaiad Muchasi.
The squad moves to London to track down Ali Hassan Salameh, who orchestrated the Munich Massacre, but their assassination attempt is interrupted by several drunken Americans. It is implied that these are agents of the CIA, which, according to Louis, protects and funds Salameh in exchange for his promise not to attack US diplomats. Meanwhile, attempts are made on the assassins themselves. Carl is killed by "Jeanette," an independent Dutch contract killer, whom the team pursues to the Netherlands, shooting her in revenge. Hans is found stabbed to death on a park bench, while Robert is killed by an explosion in his workshop. Avner and Steve finally locate Salameh in Spain, but again their assassination attempt is thwarted, this time by Salameh's armed guards.
A disillusioned Avner flies to Israel, where he is unhappy to be hailed as a hero by two young soldiers, and then to his new home in Brooklyn, where he suffers post-traumatic stress. He is thrown out of the Israeli consulate after storming in to demand that Mossad leave his wife and child alone. In the final scene, Ephraim comes to ask Avner to return to Israel and Mossad. Ephraim admits that there was no evidence directly linking any of the targets to the Munich massacre, and Avner decries the entire operation. A final intertitle notes that 9 of the 11 original targets were eventually assassinated, including Salameh in 1979.
Miscellaneous The team meets in an underground room to debrief the team leader. Along the far wall, behind the reel-to-reel tape recorder, is a water cooler with a polycarbonate bottle. At the time, water coolers had glass bottles.
Miscellaneous When Avner is leaving his apartment in New York, a yellow "rubber bumper" MGB is present in the line of cars on the side of the street. The federally mandated rubber energy absorption bumpers were not installed on MGBs until late summer of 1974 as a 1974/5 model. The age of Avner's daughter would seem to suggest this scene takes place sometime before then.
Miscellaneous When Avner and Ephraim are walking along the beach in the middle of the film, a jet-ski appears in the water. Jet-skis were invented in 1976
Outside the hotel in London, a taxi goes over a speed bump, which wouldn't have been there in the 1970s.
Miscellaneous When Avner and his crew are in Rome, you can see a 2000-style trash can.
Miscellaneous Though they took the time to digitally add the World Trade Center to the final shot, they didn't edit out the Citigroup Center, Trump World Tower, and the Bloomberg building, which were built after the time of the movie.
Miscellaneous The shop the victim in Rome enters has modern San Pellegrino cans.
Miscellaneous When Avner and one of his team members find their mate stabbed to death on the bench near the river, a modern-day truck, with a spoiler and cooling unit on the roof, passes by on the bridge above.
Miscellaneous When walking on the waterfront in Tel Aviv, a rusty beat-up 1972-79 VW Bus appears on the street. The scene takes place in late 1972. A brand-new first year model would not be that beat up and rusty after just a few months.
Miscellaneous The reel-to-reel tape recorder used in the debriefing is a Revox B77, which came on the market in 1978.
Miscellaneous When Avner checks his TV, he is holding a MagLite in his mouth. The first MagLite was introduced in 1979, and the model he's holding was introduced in 1984.
Miscellaneous When the first Palestinian victim (the translator of 1001 Nights) turns at the corner at his house, right before his assassination (around the 37th minute of the movie) a modern parking meter is visible with a sign of a cellular phone.
Miscellaneous The black Mercedes W114 230.6 used by the KGB agents during the Greece assassination scene is patched together to make it more "historic." The front doors were made to look like a Series 1 model, with divided side windows, made prior August 1973. The side mirror was removed completely. The rest of the car is clearly a Series 2 (post August 1973), including the model designation 230.6 itself (it should read just "230", the two different models 230.4 and 230.6 co-existed after August 1973).
Miscellaneous In Brooklyn, Avner walks past a wheelchair-accessible curb cut, which didn't exist in 1972.
Miscellaneous When Avner and Ephraim are walking along the sea front in Israel, modern Maltese phone boxes and buses are visible in the background.
Miscellaneous The term "honey trap," which is used in the film, was first coined by John LeCarre in 1974 (publication of Tinker Tailor), so it's very unlikely (we don't have the exact time line of that incident in the movie, or indications of reading habits) that it would have been used.
Audio/Video Mismatch When Avner is waiting for the Palestinian's daughter and wife to come out of their building, before letting off the telephone bomb, the little girl says the same line twice. Off-screen, she says hello to her driver before she actually meets him. She comes out, repeats the same line, and says hello to the driver when she meets him.
Miscellaneous In one scene a chess game is briefly visible in the foreground. It is turned the wrong way, with a black square, rather than a white square, in the lower right corner.
Character Error Golda Meir wishes "mazel tov" to Avner's unborn daughter. (So do team members at their first meal together.) Sayng "mazel tov" on an unborn baby is bad luck.
Character Error In Greece, just before the large explosion, Avner, who is supposed to be fluent in German, asks "Kann ich ein Licht haben?" as he asks for a light for his cigarette. The person responds "sind Sie Deutscher?" ("Are you German?"). The correct question is, "Kann ich Feuer haben?"
Continuity When dialing the phone number of the bomb-trapped phone for the second time, Carl begins with a different digit than he did the first time he called.
Continuity Steve and an Italian girl observe the first victim in Rome from an Alfa Romeo Giulia (model 1974 or later, with a straight trunk). When the victim walks through the street, putting on his coat, Steve and the girl drive away in a Lancia Flavia. When the victim is in the store, they arrive in the Alfa Romeo Giulia.
Continuity When Avner and Ephraim are walking along the beach, they pass Joe Quattromani twice. The first time, nothing is on the ground near him. The second time, he is next to a briefcase.
Continuity When Avner walks into Papa's home, he walks towards the kitchen past a table. There is a man standing next to the table talking to someone sitting down but in the next shot, the man standing up is gone.
Continuity When the crew eats for the first time together, Steve holds up his plate for Avner to put some meat on it. In the next shot, Steve's plate is on the table as Avner serves him the meat.
Continuity At the end of the film, when Avner's wife Daphna touches his face, her nails are polished. After they have sex, her nails are not polished.
Continuity After being shot, the first victim falls face-first onto his grocery bag. In the next scene, he is lying face up.
Continuity When Avner and his wife are making love in New York, he is drenched in sweat and his hair is soaking wet. His wife wipes his face and his wet hair is visible. In the next shot, his hair is dry.
Continuity When the team is eating dinner after the assassination where Avner is nearly blown up in the adjoining room, the scene begins with a white rug under the table and then the rug is mystically gone in the later scene and bare wood floors are seen.
Continuity At the shootout at the airport at the end of the movie one of the terrorists machine guns the first group of hostages in the first helicopter, throws a grenade into it, and takes off running. In the wide shot of the helicopters when it shows the one on the left exploding, you can see the terrorist who threw the grenade running to the other helicopter and his body is hit with several bullets. In the next scene, that same terrorist is running toward the camera and again he gets hit by the bullets.
Continuity Just before the terrorist with the cowboy hat (Tony), shoots one of the athletes through the cheek, we see a terrorist in a denim jacket and beige ski mask looking on in the background. As the shot goes to a different angle we see a different terrorist in a yellow shirt threatening an athlete (out of shot).
Continuity Avner's wedding ring is a different style late in the movie compared to earlier.
Continuity When Avner and Louis are leaving Papa's house after their meeting, they are both seen entering the back seats of the car and sitting down. But in the next shot only Avner can be seen in the back of the car.
Continuity Toward the end of the movie, Daphna's hand touching Avner's face. It's in a different position in three different shots.
Crew/Equipment Visible When leaving Papa's farm, the camera and two operators are reflected on the side of the car.
Errors in Geography When Avner meets Andreas and his friend Tony in a Rome café, there is a huge statue of Queen Victoria, in her extremely distinctive pose, in the middle of the square, with the British coat of arms on the pedestal, betraying the location as Malta.
Errors in Geography When Avner and Ephraim are walking along the beach in Tel Aviv, the sea is to the left and the sun is casting shadows towards the camera, revealing that they are walking north. The scene must have been shot on the east coast of Malta, not in Tel Aviv, on Israel's west coast.
Errors in Geography When Avner is on the airplane to Geneva, the flight number starts with SA, for South African Airways, which has never flown to Geneva.
Factual Mistake Israeli weightlifter Yossef Romano is portrayed as a fit man who attempts a rescue, which eventually results in his death. At the time of the kidnapping, Romano was injured, and walking with crutches.
Factual Mistake In the film, the German snipers at the airport were using rifles with telescopic sights. In reality, the Germans were criticized for their lack of preparation, including the fact that none of the snipers had telescopic or infrared sights.
Factual Mistake When Carl goes into the apartment building lobby to "sweep" the scene of the first assassination, he picks up a spent shell casing that is clearly a .22 Caliber shell. The assassins were both armed with Beretta M1951 model pistols, which fire 9mm. (Interestingly, the actual assassins in real life likely used Beretta Model 70s, which do fire .22 Caliber.)
Miscellaneous Late in the film Avner makes a telephone call from a booth on a street apparently in Brooklyn. He gives the phone's area code as 212. This was correct at the time the movie was set - Brooklyn changed to the 718 area code in 1984.
Miscellaneous At the beginning of the movie, the Munich Olympic kidnappings are on TV. Actors are watching the footage on screen as if it was happening live, but the date of the events is displayed on the ABC news coverage. The news footage is clearly archive footage.
Miscellaneous Just before the credits roll, Avner asks probing questions of Ephraim. They are in a small park on the north end of Gantry Plaza State Park, near 48th. Ave. & Center Blvd., just north of Avalon Riverview, Queens West, Long Island City. SSE across the East River are the high-rises of Peter Cooper Village behind Avner and to his left (our right), and the low-rises of Stuyvesant Town directly behind him. The World Trade Center towers have not been digitally added to these shots - "Break bread with me, Ephraim" - but have been added to the pullback about a minute later.
Miscellaneous When Avner finds Carl dead and naked in the bed and moves his head, you can see Carl's eyes moving about four times.
Miscellaneous When Jeanette the Dutch Assassin is dead and nearly naked in her chair, the reflection on her chest reveals that she is breathing.
Guri Weinberg plays his own father. He is the son of Moshe Weinberg, the Israeli wrestling referee and former champion who died in the massacre when Guri was just 1 month old.
A crew truck imported from Germany and laden with heavy equipment, mysteriously caught fire during shooting in Malta, sparking fears of a possible terrorist attack. Local police attributed the fire to generators overheating due to the heat of the Maltese summer.
The role of Avner was written with Eric Bana in mind.
The film stars a later James Bond (Daniel Craig) and one former (Michael Lonsdale) and a later (Mathieu Amalric) Bond villain. Lonsdale and Amalric's characters are father and son in film.
The film crews called the shooting of the movie as a "race against the clock". In order to have the film ready by Christmas for Academy Awards consideration, Steven Spielberg and editor Michael Kahn devised an editing schedule in which:
1) All of the scenes in Malta and Hungary shot in twelve weeks were edited on the spot. Each day Spielberg would review an edited scene shot two days earlier.
2) Two copies of the edited scene were sent out, one to John Williams for music and the other to Ben Burtt for sound effects.
3) The Paris and New York scenes were edited two weeks after photography and the final cut was readied after another two weeks.
During the scene where Avner's team joins up with the Israeli commandos in Beirut, one of the commandos introduces himself as Ehud Barak. Barak was a member of the most elite commando force of the Israeli army, sayeret matkal, before becoming a politician and eventually Israel's Prime Minister.
Two days before filming his final scene, Ossie Beck, who portrayed Eliezaar Halfin, discovered that his grandfather had been in Mossad.
In the opening segment of the movie, there is a brief shot of two Israeli girls watching TV appearing twice. The one of the left is Steven Spielberg's daughter Sasha Spielberg.
The quote that Papa shares with Avner when telling him that he is being hunted is loosely taken from Ecclesiastes 9:11: "I returned and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happen to them all."
Actor/director Mathieu Kassovitz had left a strict instructions to his agent that he would not take any acting assignments at all as he wanted to fully concentrate on directing features. However, this film was an exception. According to him, he accepted the role of Robert because he jumped at the chance to work with Steven Spielberg.
Avner is referred to as a "sabra" more than once. This is an Israeli term for a native born Jew, as opposed to an immigrant. "Sabra" originally referred to a tough kind of cactus (Opuntia cactus) which grew out in the desert.
The role of Ephraim was intended for Ben Kingsley but he backed out due to a change to the ending of Steven Spielberg's earlier film The Terminal (2004). It caused the start of the production to be pushed back a few weeks later, thus conflicting with Kingsley's work schedule on Roman Polanski's Oliver Twist (2005).
The time span between the start of production to the release date in December of 2005 was less than six months.
To create the blue pastel effect in the Beirut scenes, special Fuji film stocks were used exclusively. The notable challenge for that was that it has to be processed in a Fuji lab (in this case in France) since most Technicolor labs use Kodak calibrations and a reprint is required if there was a case of a print printed to the wrong specifications.
All of Avner's four visits to the bank vault were shot in a single day alone.
Munich (2005) is based on George Jonas' book "Vengeance". It purports to tell the true story of vengeance taken against the Black September terrorists using a supposed former Mossad agent named Yuval Aviv as Jonas' main source. The Israeli intelligence community has denied Aviv's claims, saying he is a fraud. Aviv counters this by saying that they would deny him anyway.
One of the posters in the athletes' apartment is of Masada (captioned in Hebrew script). Masada is of great significance in Jewish history, as it is a fortress Hebrew rebels held out in against Roman troops. Many of the rebels were killed or committed suicide, but it relates to the themes of death and resistance in "Munich".
In a rare instance of his Steven Spielberg did not make any promotions and interviews for this movie.
After getting the rights to George Jonas's book "Vengeance", Steven Spielberg commissioned three scripts: one from David Webb Peoples and Janet Peoples, one from Charles Randolph, and one from Eric Roth. Roth's script was chosen and subsequently revised by Tony Kushner, after Kushner first declined to co-write the screenplay; he felt it was too controversial and too complicated to be his first screenplay for a feature film.
Mosko Alkalai filmed scenes as Avner's (Eric Bana) father.
The painting on the wall, behind Avner, in the "safe-house" scene is 'Children Eating Grapes and a Melon' by Bartolomé Esteban Murillo. The painting currently resides in Alte Pinakothek, Munich.
At the beginning, one of the Israeli players is cutting a piece of bread before the hostage situation began. At the end, Avner tells Ephraim to come to his house to dinner and cut the bread.
Steven Spielberg was going to direct this film for a 2003 or 2004 release but shelved it when Tom Cruise became available and the duo could work on War of the Worlds (2005) instead.
Michael Klesic had a small part in the film as a Russian athlete but it was left on the cutting room floor.
Steven Spielberg: [father] Avner's father is in jail, Avner himself is away from his wife and newborn child during the first year or so of her life.
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