It's the universal experience of readers that any movie made from a favorite book will disappoint. Even great adaptations are never as satisfying as the original: that is the price of translating a work from one medium to another. Still, motion pictures can bring stories to life in a different way and are one way to get a story across to the illiterate and semi-literate who now seem to constitute a large portion of the population and in fact, direct the pictures (if dread is an emotion you enjoy, please see A. M. Siriano's painful look at an interview with Ansel Adamson, the director of the soon-to-be-released Chronicles of Narnia.) But these same people are also prey to those who would rewrite history for the sake of promoting a political agenda. The vague notion of some event is shaped into certain knowledge by so-called "docudramas" that purport to accurately depict historical events, but are really historical fictions that use real names.
I was a kid living in a third world country, far from the US, far from Munich and very far from the troubles in the Middle East when the Summer Olympics were held in Munich in 1972. I remember vividly counting all of the gold medals that Mark Spitz won, but have only the vaguest recollection of the terrible tragedy that took place at the same time, the massacre of 11 Israeli athletes by Palestinian terrorists. This was, in retrospect, the event that everyone points to as having ushered us into the modern era of terrorism.
Steven Spielberg has decided to take a look at what happened at the Munich Games and Israel's response. He has been working on a film about it, still untitled, for about five years. Although the project has been highly secret by Hollywood's standards, some clues about Mr. Spielberg's approach are beginning to filter out. This summer, he released a carefully worded statement about his angle on the story:
"Viewing Israel's response to Munich through the eyes of the men who were sent to avenge that tragedy adds a human dimension to a horrific episode that we usually think about only in political or military terms. By experiencing how the implacable resolve of these men to succeed in their mission slowly gave way to troubling doubts about what they were doing, I think we can learn something important about the tragic standoff we find ourselves in today."
He is referring to the directive of then Prime Minister Golda Mier to the Mossad to hunt the perpetrators down wherever they were and kill them, no matter how long it took. This policy of retribution is now popularly known as "targeted killing," but then was known more poetically as the "Wrath of God."
To develop the story, Mr. Spielburg relied only on "uninvolved, objective sources" and consulted with experts like former President Bill Clinton, former White House spokesman Mike McCurry , and Alan Mayer, a Hollywood executive who is an expert in crisis management. In other words, people who are so far removed that their input is useless but who will lend the project a certain seriousness by association. It goes without saying that only those whose world view will certainly support Mr. Spielberg's presuppositions would be consulted.
As Rachel Abramowitz observed in her piece for the LA Times, the resulting film may be the one thing that Abu Daoud, the mastermind of the massacre and Zvi Zamir, the Mossad spy chief in charge of bringing him to justice, agree on.
For an excellent real documentary about the killing of the Israeli athletes in Munich, see One Day in September, which is replete with footage and interviews.
My own opinion? This is Mr. Spielberg's and indeed, the Left's convoluted way of making the last thirty years of escalating Islamic terrorism the fault of Israeli policies, while trying to show how these policies also hurt those who had to carry them out. Everyone: the original terrorists, the subsequent terrorists, the subsequent victims of Palestinian and Islamic terror, and, indeed, the poor schmucks who were employed by Mossad, are victims of the unsubtle, un-nuanced approach that Israel adopted with respect to these murderers. It is also Mr. Spielberg's not so convoluted way of making money.