On the Big Board
|Overlong, frequently dull and extremely disappointing. Bana and the cast are quite good, but as usual Spielberg over-Spielbergs.
|Spielberg's worst effort since Hook. The fact that it gets a Best Picture nod astounds me.
"They're all gone."
Jim McKay was selected to host ABC's Olympic coverage due to his skill at humanizing sports accomplishments. Little did anyone involved with his hiring realize that his involvement with the 1972 Games in Munich would go much deeper. The broadcaster wound up being the voice whom fate randomly selected to document a shocking series of events. The resulting violence left a dozen innocents and five instigators dead.
The 1972 event was the ninth Olympic games since Jesse Owens had faced off against and soundly defeated Adolf Hitler's aryan athletes. Germany's controversial selection to host the latest games was seen as a way to heal some of the bitter racial division Hitler's Nazis had created. The timing was perfect as the United States was dealing with civil unrest and conflict in Vietnam. Their struggles were perhaps symbolic of a world in flux. The most tumultuous struggles involved the Middle East, where Palestinians and Israelis were embroiled in a particularly nasty period of strife and hostility, even by their standards.
The world needed some healing, but the athletes placed on its stage received only horror.
There was less than a week left in the 1972 Olympics on September 5th. The events that unfolded that morning would change the very nature of the millennia-old competition. An octet of highly trained Arab terrorists from a PLO group named Black September attacked and kidnapped 11 Israelis. Two of the victims who attempted to resist the incursion were slain in the encounter, bringing bloodshed to the Games for the first time. The nine survivors were held for ransom over the next 24 hours as the terrorists negotiated terms.
While the world watched the shocking events as recounted by Jim McKay, details came forward about the demands. 232 Palestinians jailed in Israeli prisons were to be released. In addition, two notorious assassins incarcerated in German prisons were to receive their freedom as well. In exchange, the remaining Israeli athletes would be returned to the Olympic Village.
Negotiations hit a stalemate, so the eight Palestinians negotiated temporary plans to return home to the Middle East by way of a German military airport. On the morning of September 6th, their attempt to take their prisoners with them was foiled. The cost, however, was immeasurable. German police were under heavy media pressure to combat the instigators. After being publicly humiliated over the kidnapping, German officials wanted to save face by stopping the escape route of the terrorists. Police sharpshooters were recklessly given the Go command to open fire on the kidnappers. A firefight ensued and in the process, all kidnapped athletes were killed along with a policeman and two of the terrorists. As McKay reported to the world, they were all dead.
With several days remaining in the competition, a decision had to be made. International Olympic Committee head Avery Brundage made a historic ruling. "The Games must go on." And so they did. With a few key Jewish competitors like American Gold Medal winner Mark Spitz taken out of the competition for the purposes of security, the rest of the Olympics took place. National and Olympic flags all flew at half-mast while people across the globe tried to come to terms with the horror of what had taken place.
Over three decades later, security and terrorism have again come to the forefront of world news. Steven Spielberg has decided that the timing is perfect to go back and study one of the most stunning world events in history. He has already cast Eric Bana to portray a lead role, and he will star along with Daniel Craig and Geoffrey Rush. Considering the timing, the subject matter and the pedigree, this production is poised one of the most discussed releases of the next couple of years. (David Mumpower/BOP)