Friday, August 3, 2012

21 Hours At Munich (1976)

I find it interesting that countries like Sweden can make quality films that are produced for television, but in America, a T.V. movie carries a stigma. If you are a cinephile, you are more than likely to turn up your nose at the thought of watching a T.V. movie. But once in a blue moon, a good one comes along. 

21 Hours At Munich tells the true story of the terrorism that unfolded at the 1972 Olympics in Munich, West Germany. The event is now sometimes referred to as The Munich Massacre. It was when members of the Israeli Olympic team were taken hostage and murdered by a Palestinian group known as Black September. 

The Olympic Games of the XXX Olympiad are going on as I write this. The International Olympic Committee decided not mark the 40 year anniversary of the tragedy in Munich with any kind of tribute to the victims. In a world where terrorism is still in everyone's minds and fears and the struggles between Israel and Palestine continue and show no sign of ending anytime soon, it is amazing to me that there wasn't more of a reminder of what happened in Munich in 1972. So, I figured it would be timely for me to unearth this movie and sat something about it. 

In 2005, Steven Spielberg made the film Munich. I saw it and was oddly unmoved by it. At almost three hours, it was way too long and about half way through it seemed to regress into a shoot 'em up chase film. 21 Hours At Munich has a perfect running time of 1 hour and 40 minutes. Both films were based on books. Munich was based on Vengeance: The True Story of an Israeli Counter-Terrorist Team by Canadian journalist George Jonas and 21 Hours At Munich was based on The Blood of Israel by Serge Groussard.

There is great acting in this film. The lead is the great William Holden, he plays the Chief of Police Manfred Schreiber. Two Israeli athletes are played by Paul L. Smith and David Hess. You may not know their names, but I'm sure you know their faces. 

The locations in the film are all the places where the events actually took place. This provides are pretty chilling backdrop and gives you a good idea as to what happened that summer. This is definitely worth watching if you are interested in history. I would also recommend seeing the 1999 documentary One Day In September. Despite a "tasteless conclusion" as Roger Ebert remarked, that was just a poor choice by the director, it provides the most information on the Munich Massacre. As I was watching the opening ceremonies last week, I got a lump in my throat thinking about how small the world has truly gotten. I honestly believe that the Olympic games are one of those things that brings the entire world together. Every two years the world gets a little smaller and our hearts get a little bigger.   

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