I’ve never been a big fan of the “Inspirational Based-on-a-True-Story Sports Dramas”, honestly. They’re usually pretty formulaic from beginning to end, and Invincible is no exception to the rule. Still, I’m a guy who writes 99% of his reviews about Slasher flicks, and it’s hard to get more formulaic than that, so I went into this movie doing my best impression of an open mind. And, really, for what it was, Invincible was rather good.
In South Philly, 1976, the Eagles’ new coach, Dick Vermeil (Greg Kinnear), held open team try-outs for anybody who felt they had what it took to be an NFL player. A 30 yeard-old down-on-his-luck bartender with no college football experience, Vince Papale (Mark Wahlberg), attended the try-outs and proved to be the only contender Coach Vermeil would select to go to Eagles training camp. Older and less experienced than all the other players gunning for a spot on the team, Papale would prove to be a valuable asset to the Eagles through shear heart and force of will.
Yeah, it sounds like any other inspirational sports movie, like “the Rookie”, “Miracle” or “Without Limits”, and there honestly isn’t much setting it apart from those aforementioned titles. Yet, considering the genre, there honestly isn’t anything wrong with the movie. If you like football and sports movies then there’s a good chance you’ll enjoy Invincible.
During the “big game” against the Giants at the film’s finale, they pulled a “Without Limits”, having people watch the game on TV in-between cuts of Mark Wahlberg playing on the field. Just like in “Without Limits”, the footage they showed on the television was the actual archived game footage. I’ve always liked that effect and it’s a nice nod of respect to the real athletes the movie was based on. Also, Greg Kinnear played a spot-on Dick Vermeil. It’s almost scary how much he resembles the man both in appearance and presence.
So Invincible was formulaic and predictable, yet that’s what you expect from these sorts of movies and it delivered everything it advertised. Can’t say it really went wrong anywhere. It gets a B-. It’s not my kind of movie but I’m sure the people within its target audience will enjoy it.
Munich: Not Quite a Massacre
Munich inherently attracts controversy. Its labeling by critics as a controversial movie is not due to any strange perspective chosen by its director, but rather its subject matter. It has been panned by liberals due to its brutality: likewise, conservatives detest the movie’s instances of leniency towards the enemies of Israel. Both sides have distaste in the movie’s questionable source.
Having read the source material (Vengeance by George Jonas and One Day in September by Simon Reeve) and being a ninja, you are better off listening to me.
It is time for a little history lesson: on September 5, 1972, 8 terrorists working for the Palestinian terrorist organization Black September stormed the Olympic apartment complex of the Israeli delegation and took 11 hostages. Two were killed in the early morning struggle. What happened next would go down as one of the biggest s.n.a.f.u.’s in history. The German’s incompetence at negotiations, their lack of expertise at anti-terrorism, and their refusal to allow Mossad to handle the situation amounted to a 21-hour debacle in which nothing was achieved. Finally, the German government decided to fly the hostages and terrorists in two helicopters to the nearby airport of Fürstenfeldbruck where a Boeing jet would await the terrorists and hostages. The plan was to disguise the German police as the airline’s crew, yet minutes before the arrival of the helicopters the police disengaged. Next, 5 snipers were distributed around the perimeter but none of them were actually snipers: they were simply members of a marksmen club. None of the snipers knew where the other ones were located. By the time the helicopters landed, all hell broke loose. In an act of desperation, the terrorists opened fire on the hostages and threw a grenade into one of the copters, burning the corpses of the athletes within. By 1:30 a.m. on the morning of September 6, all 11 hostages were killed and 3 of the terrorists were taken into custody.
The Olympic games were halted for one day, during which time the Olympic flag was flown at half-mast. Unsurprisingly, the Arab athletes demanded it be flown at full mast. The games resumed the next day and there would be no talk about them being cancelled altogether. Digusted by the insensitivity shown by the Olympic committee, the remaining Israelis flew back to Israel. The Philippine and Algerian teams also left, as did members of the Dutch and Norwegian teams. Marathon runner Kenny Moore quoted one of the Dutch athletes as saying, “You give a party, and someone is killed at the party, you don’t continue the party, you go home. That’s what I’m doing.”
On October 29, a German Lufthansa jet was hijacked and demands were made for the release of the three Black September members being held for trial. They were released.
According to Simon Reeve, when it became clear that the perpetrators would not face justice in Germany, Golda Meir and the Israeli Defense Committee made a decision secretly authorizing the Mossad to kill Black September and PFLP operatives. The Mossad established a team to locate and eliminate them, aided by the agency’s stations in Europe.
The Israeli revenge missions later became known as Operation Wrath of God. This is the story of Vengeance and, subsequently, Munich.
Munich is very true to the book. Contrary to a lot of conservative commentators, it is not this ninja’s opinion that Spielberg had a “pro Palestinian” agenda with this film or tried to equalize Palestians and Israelis. As in the book, the film devotes more screen time to the personal lives of the Mossad agents than it does to any of the targets being turned into chunks of meat. Much of the criticism focuses on the “sympathetic” portrayal of each target as normal people, though I do not think “sympathy” is quite the word for it: “human” is more appropriate. Think about it: Spielberg had to show both sides of the coin or else his movie would be little more than a Michael Bay action movie which would probably not amount to more than an hour of screen-time. Any director in this position would have two choices: portray your enemies as behaving as scum at all times or show that, suprisingly, wolves do hide behind sheep’s clothing (and are, at times, seen as sheep). In real life, do our enemies actually go out of their way to project themselves as antagonists? No. And that is what Spielberg aimed to do. He did not humanize terrorists so that we would sympathize with them, but rather to give the realistic view of how the world works. In matters of anti-terrorism and domestic policy, it is the human quality of the enemy that liberals fall back on when they try to preach peace or paint terrorists as “freedom fighters.” George Jonas, author of Vengeance, makes it quite clear that neither he nor the character of “Avner” would ever make that equation. Avner, in the epilogue, even says that while he detested taking the lives of these people, he has no regrets having ever done so. That is one crucial statement I wish they left in the movie. Mossad never kills innocents or civilians: that’s the major flaw in the logic of liberals who say that the war on terror is in and of itself terrorism. Terrorists aim to strike fear by showing that no one is safe. Espionage and military action, on the other hand, are designed to eliminate and minimize civilian casualties. This is explicitly demonstrated in the movie, as Palestinian terrorists don’t give a damn about who they kill whereas the Israelis just want to kill the people responsible for Munich.
The movie fails miserably, however, by minimalizing the importance of its most crucial plot segment: the Munich Massacre. You see it in small clips, but it doesn’t pack an emotional punch. It would be like making a film about the war on terror and only showing 10 seconds of 9-11 footage… it makes the whole war look stupid without something significant to fall back on. Ironically, the book Vengeance spends 1/4 of the book on the Munich Massacre before we are introduced to the main characters. It always has the massacre riding on its tail, consistenly reminding readers why Israel is doing what it does. We do not get that same feeling with Munich: flashbacks, when they appear, make us say “oh yeah, forgot about that.” Which is a shame, considering that Spielberg could have used this emotional point of history to redeem himself as a director.
You’d think that any film with Brad Pitt on board will ensure that things will roll smoothly. I guess Columbia Pictures know better and wouldn’t bank their money even with the super star of stars on board if they figure that the script isn’t up to par. Up to par with what though, I don’t know. What we know for sure is that Columbia Pictures president Amy Pascal just backed out from backing “Moneyball” after reading the final draft of the script.
The “Moneyball” script was written by Oscar-winners Soderbergh and Steven Zaillian (Schindler’s List). It is based on the Michael Lewis’ non-fiction novel about the Oakland Athletics and their GM Billy Beane. According to Amy Pascal the decision to back out was due to the fact that they got “a much different final draft” than the one they agreed to produce. It must be so different for them to decide to pull the plug when it was already scheduled to shoot tomorrow in Phoenix.
Director Steven Soderbergh and star Brad Pitt is now left scrambling around looking for another studio to fund the film. No news yet as to how they are doing on this one but you can be sure that for them this whole fiasco came from the left field.
As for Columbia only the film coming out and the box office will tell if they made the right decision or if they’ll be regretting it all when “Moneyball” starts raking in cash. Of course, that’ll only happen if “Moneyball” actually gets to go on production.