Title: Munich 2-Disk Collector’s Edition
Screen format: 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Studio: Universal Studios Home Entertainment
Year first released: 2005
DVD released: 5/9/2006
Director: Steven Spielberg
Starring: Eric Bana, Daniel Craig, Ciaran Hinds, Mathieu Kassovitz, Hanns Zischlerer and Geoffrey Rush
Sound Formats: English & French Dolby Digital 5.1
Length: 2 Hours 44 minutes
Subtitles: English, Spanish, French
In the summer of 1972, a group of Palestinian terrorists broke into the housing village during the Munich Summer Olympics, immediately killing an Israeli coach and taking (and eventually killing) 14 more Israeli hostages. Munich deals with the events immediately preceding and during this massacre and then follows along the arc of the team of special operatives secretly tasked with assassinating as many of those responsible as they can find. Based on these real events, director Steven Spielberg presents a film that is designed to challenge audience’s perceptions of just what is good and evil, and whether those charged with performing heinous acts in the name of justice can retain their humanity.
Eric Bana (The Incredible Hulk, Troy) is Avner, selected as the leader of an intentionally diverse group of international operatives assembled by Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir and her agent, Ephraim (Geoffrey Rush). The team is charged with finding and eliminating 11 Arabs suspected of involvement in the Munich Massacre, although they have spread around the globe since that event. This film centers on the moral choices each must make, their transformation from potential assassins to experienced killers, and cautions they take to avoid collateral damage. As the team succeeds at eliminating their prey, the stakes become higher and higher and the dangers they face become more intense. Avner’s circumstances are the focus, with his newborn daughter being raised alone by his wife while he pursues his mission, he must struggle with his own private fears over whom he can trust and whether his team is actually accomplishing anything at all.
Sound Quality: 4/5
John Williams provides suitably emotional score to frame the action and history of this tale, but there are long stretches in this already long movie where there is no music at all, and it is noticeable in its absence, especially when the characters themselves start singing popular songs of the day with no radio accompaniment. The assassination/bombing sequences are well done, with effective surround, but the action is not the attraction of this movie. It’s nice that what sound effects are included are top notch, but it’s a bonus not a requirement.
Visual Quality: 4/5
At 2 hours and 45 minutes this disk is pushing the envelope for video quality, which is probably why there are no special features or commentaries on disk 1. Given the length, it’s impressive that the video quality is relatively good, although this is not a reference quality transfer. There is noticeable grain, especially in night shots, and many of the wide angle shots appear softer than would be expected, however close-ups are suitably sharp. There was no notable edge enhancement that I could see at least. The color palette appears to have been somewhat limited to match the 70’s timeframe of the film, and that is done very well and captured appropriately in the transfer. Looking at the pictures in the accompanying booklet shows the style that the film meant to achieve which is matched perfectly, but I am certain that a high definition version of this transfer will be needed to match the quality seen in those stills.
Extra Features: 3.5/5
This “2-Disk Collector’s Edition” includes 6 solid featurettes on disk 2 while disk 1’s sole special feature is a 5 minute long introduction to the film by director Spielberg. There are no trailers, commentaries or other common special edition features. The featurettes are presented full screen. The packaging however is slick and well produced, kudos on that.
‘The Mission, The Team’ expands the back story of each operative, gives a brief comment or two from the actors playing them, and allows Spielberg to explain how he was attracted to the project and introduce a few of his production and writing team.
‘Memories of the Event’ uses television clips and interviews to give insight into the massacre and the political climate that led to the hostages being taken in the first place. This is one area the movie itself is someone short on, as the motives of the hostage takers isn’t really explored in depth.
‘Portrait of an Era’ explores the production considerations given to filming a 70’s period piece. Location scouting, wardrobe, props and architectural issues are explored.
‘The On-Set Experience’ gives a behind the scenes look at the atmosphere on set, including how the actors prepared for their roles and interaction between cast, crew and production staff.
‘The International Cast’ expands past the ‘Team’ members in the cast to include the government, news, city, family, agency, hostage takers, informants and other disparate members that are crucial to the movie. Lynn Cohen’s dramatic transformation into Golda Mair is especially notable.
‘Editing, Sound and Music’ helps explain how integrating typical post production issues into the actual production allowed the crew to wrap Post in an astounding 9 weeks. This featurette includes one of the best interviews with legendary sound/foley producer Ben Burtt that I have seen.
Overall: 4/5 (not an average)
While Munich took home none of the 5 academy awards (including best picture, director, and adapted screenplay) that it was nominated for, it was on hundreds of critics best lists, and in this case I believe deservedly so. Its epic scope reminds me of the Godfather series in many ways, while its cinematography is both larger than life yet with a muted palette, similar to one of its fellow nominees, Brokeback Mountain. But more than that, Munich explores ground few movies are willing to tread upon. Where it falls short is in giving the ‘villains’ of the story more than a name and face, there is no motivation to their actions and while they are painted as madmen the ‘heros’ are painted as performing the most heinous acts with the noblest of intentions. The other area the film falls short is in that it asks so many questions but provides so little resolution and so few answers. This is frustrating especially since terror is so prevalent on our minds today. While we are dealing with the issues of today it may have been more satisfying with some perspective from similar events from the past, and Munich provides no advice on those topics, yet serves as a warning to simply be careful about the actions you put in motion. Still, as an impetus for debate it is an excellent vehicle, and one I can see myself returning to for perspective down the road.
The 2 Disk Collector’s Edition is a competent but not remarkable set. While slick packaging and detailed featurettes are a good start, this film screams for a release on a disk format that can contain all the features a true special edition warrants, including commentaries, trailers, and a high definition transfer. Until that time we will have to be satisfied with this release, and be glad that one of the best movies of 2005 is available in our home libraries any time we get the urge to give its featured issues some more of our thought.
PS Due to getting this review copy quite late in the weekend, I had to do my review a bit even later this evening. I reserve the right to correct any glaring mistakes in it over the next few days, and if I can beef up any sections further after giving this deep deep movie some thought, I will do so. Your comments, critiques and questions, as always are encouraged and appreciated!