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21 Hours at Munich (1976)

1 rating: 3.0
Sports movie directed by William A. Graham

September 5, 1972. The darkest day in sports history. Some 900 million sports fans tune in to watchthe Olympics on TV. Instead, they see the most shocking scenes unfold... Academy AwardÂ(r) winner William Holden (Best Actor 1953, Stalag 17) and … see full wiki

Tags: Movie
Director: William A. Graham
1 review about 21 Hours at Munich (1976)

A Human Tragedy

  • Dec 27, 2008
"21 Hours at Munich"

A Human Tragedy

Amos Lassen

It has been 38 years since the massacre of the Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympic Games but terrorism is all over the world today and it is interesting to see how it has changed. I will never forget those Munich games. I was living in Israel and remember the shock we all felt when we heard what happened. We all went into a state of depression that was very hard to shake off. What is interesting is that the world did not take enough heed back then--we see terrorism not only continuing but growing.
"21 Hours at Munich" is a cold look at the events that transpired in Munich in 1972 and it is presented in the style of a documentary. It is not just a retelling of what happened but a well made film about the murders of the members of the Israeli Olympic team. It is both gripping and heartbreaking. Unlike the other films made on the same subject, this one was filmed at the locations where the events actually occurred and even though it is documentary like in style, we also see a bit of creative freedom. The narrative is linear and we see the types of glitches that the authorities ran into when they were faced with a problem that had not been anticipated. Much like we felt about 9/11, no one could really imagine that hostages would be taken at the games.
Shirley Knight plays the first German to talk to the terrorists, members of Black September and it is through her meeting that we, watching the film, realize the seriousness of the entire plot. Until we learned later exactly what was going on, no one in a position of power had any sense of what was the right thing to do.
Franco Nero as the head of Black September is cold and has an icy stare. He demands the release of 200 Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails and of course, Israel refuses to agree. William Holden plays Schreiber, the chief of Munich police and he along with Richard Basehart who plays Willy Brandt are left with the job of resolving the task as to what is to be done. They both mess up and there is a shootout at the Munich airport and all the hostages were killed along with some of the terrorists.
The film manages to show all points of view without sentimentalizing. There is a great deal of emotion here and it was not until after I saw Speilberg's "Munich" was I able to watch anything about the massacre. It still seemed too fresh for me.
This is a movie that was made for television but that does not mean it is not of equal value to a big studio production. It is quite well done when we consider that it was made in 1976, just four years after the event occurred. It is not a great film but it is interesting and even though there is not as much action as in other versions of the event, the script is good enough to carry the entire piece.

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