Munich (15)
Hidden (15)

Let the games begin

Steven Spielberg's Munich arrives here after sustaining a hefty barrage of international flak, and the fact that it has alienated both Israeli and Palestinian commentators suggests that the director must have done something right. It is certainly a bold film for him to have made: Nazis and dinosaurs are (we hope) a thing of the past, but terrorists - or, if you prefer, freedom fighters - are an ever-present in today's headlines, and the merest hint that someone of Spielberg's stature is "taking sides" would always be likely to provoke howls of execration.

The film begins with the kidnapping and murder of 11 Israeli athletes by the terrorist cell Black September at the 1972 Munich Olympics, but its real subject unfolds in the aftermath. A revenge hit squad is assembled and, under the aegis of the Israeli prime minister Golda Meir, is dispatched to Europe to hunt down and execute those allegedly responsible for the massacre. The squad leader, a young man named Avner (Eric Bana), is forcefully reminded that his mission is so hush-hush that even Mossad won't admit its existence - though he must make sure to get receipts for everything. The provisional, makeshift nature of the operation is reflected in Avner's motley band of recruits, who include Ciaran Hinds in thick specs and porkpie hat, and Daniel Craig trying to disguise himself with a Sith-ifrican accent.

So begins a whistle-stop tour of capital cities - Rome, Paris, London, Athens - wherein one Palestinian plotter after another is targeted and slain. The suspense of these assassinations generally concerns the unreliable quality of their explosives, for their bomb "expert" (Mathieu Kassovitz) is a toymaker by profession. But the moral precariousness of their mission only gradually dawns on Avner and his cohorts. Can they know for sure that their targets were the men behind the Munich killings?

Their uncertainty is made explicit during a night-time raid on a hotel where the hitmen come armed with photographs of the suspects and, matching them by torchlight to various terrified faces, proceed to open fire. Indeed, the first Palestinian they kill in Rome, the poet Wael Zuaiter, turned out to be a case of mistaken identity - of which the script (by Tony Kushner and Eric Roth) makes no mention.

As the film digs deeper into this world of "intersecting secrecies" and shadowy middlemen (Michael Lonsdale plays a kind of terrorist matchmaker who's also a father figure to Avner) Spielberg tries to be even-handed, and at one stage allows a young PLO fighter to talk about his family and the idea of "home". But simply by dint of its hero being an Israeli, and a man loyal both to his family and his country, Munich keeps putting its thumb on the scale. In one of the better set-pieces Avner, realising that a young girl will be a collateral victim of their booby-trap bomb, successfully averts the danger, a nicety of feeling unlikely to be indulged by a real-life terrorist.

Towards the end, the toymaker-bomber offers an eloquent condemnation of what they've been doing when he says: "Suffering for thousands of years doesn't make you decent. We're supposed to be righteous - we're Jews." It's one of the film's few good lines, deflated in the very next scene when Avner leads a brutal revenge killing of a Dutch woman, as indefensible as anything you'll see in an Asian gangster movie.

And, just when you think it can't get worse, Spielberg pays homage to the finale of The Godfather by intercutting Avner having sex with his wife and a flashback to the Munich massacre. It must stand as the most ill-judged sequence of Spielberg's career. Munich seeks to present a balanced view of Arab-Israeli tensions, but all it adds to the picture is blood-spattered piety. Which isn't much use to anyone.

Michael Haneke's Hidden is at once a sensationally disturbing thriller and an oblique meditation on national guilt. Ambitious, you might think, yet it draws us in with a style that outdoes Hitchcock for unobtrusiveness. Opening on a prolonged, static shot of a humdrum Paris street, the house in the centre of the frame, we learn, is home to Georges Laurent (Daniel Auteuil), the presenter of a TV book-chat programme, and his wife Anne (Juliette Binoche), and the shot of their home is a two-hour videotape that's been anonymously mailed to them. More tapes follow, wrapped in a child's drawing of a bloodied head.

What's going on? One's initial hunch is that Georges is being stalked, either by a loony fan who knows him from TV or else by an adulterous bit on the side who can't let go. But these speculations give way to a much darker backstory hidden in Georges' childhood and, by implication, in France's colonial past.

Haneke is something of an expert at peeling back layers of bourgeois calm to reveal the savagery beneath, and anyone acquainted with the insidious horrors of Funny Games (1997) or The Piano Teacher (2001) will by now be adopting the crash position. Yet the build-up is so carefully, unassumingly orchestrated (without a single note of soundtrack music, by the way) that one could never have guessed the kind of shock Haneke has in store. Georges, hunting for clues on the videotapes, ends up in the dismal apartment of a man (Maurice Benichou) who was once, briefly, his boyhood companion; through sheer malevolence Georges ensured that the boy, the son of Algerian immigrants, would be his companion no more.

Their unexpected reunion in middle age puts Georges' conscience reluctantly back on trial. Nothing here is clear-cut, however, and the riddles the film poses remain elusive; indeed, the closing credits - another static shot, this time of pupils milling about on the steps of a school - dial up the paranoid mood an extra notch. Are we looking for the final clues to the mystery, or is this another surveillance tape by the unseen voyeur? Either way, you need to watch this film.

Arts and Entertainment
Victoria Wood, Kayvan Novak, Alexa Chung, Chris Moyles
tvReview: No soggy bottoms, but plenty of other baking disasters on The Great Comic Relief Bake Off
Arts and Entertainment
80s trailblazer: comedian Tracey Ullman
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Stephen Tompkinson is back as DCI Banks
tvReview: Episode one of the new series played it safe, but at least this drama has a winning formula
Arts and Entertainment
TV
News
Graham Norton said Irish broadcaster RTE’s decision to settle was ‘moronic’
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Attenborough with the primates
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Former Communards frontman Jimmy Somerville
music
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Secrets of JK Rowling's Harry Potter workings have been revealed in a new bibliography
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Fearne Cotton is leaving Radio 1 after a decade
radio The popular DJ is leaving for 'family and new adventures'
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Public Service Broadcasting are going it alone
music
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne as transgender artist Lili Elbe in The Danish Girl
filmFirst look at Oscar winner as transgender artist
Arts and Entertainment
Season three of 'House of Cards' will be returning later this month
TV reviewHouse of Cards returns to Netflix
Arts and Entertainment
Harrison Ford will play Rick Deckard once again for the Blade Runner sequel
film review
Arts and Entertainment
The modern Thunderbirds: L-R, Scott, Virgil, Alan, Gordon and John in front of their home, the exotic Tracy Island
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Natural beauty: Aidan Turner stars in the new series of Poldark
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift won Best International Solo Female (Getty)

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Shining star: Maika Monroe, with Jake Weary, in ‘It Follows’
film review
Arts and Entertainment

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Paloma Faith arrives at the Brit Awards (Getty)

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Anne Boleyn's beheading in BBC Two's Wolf Hall

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Follow every rainbow: Julie Andrews in 'The Sound of Music'
film Elizabeth Von Trapp reveals why the musical is so timeless
Arts and Entertainment
Bytes, camera, action: Leehom Wang in ‘Blackhat’
film
Arts and Entertainment
The Libertines will headline this year's festival
music
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Dean Anderson in the original TV series, which ran for seven seasons from 1985-1992
tv
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

    Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

    Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
    Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

    What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

    Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
    The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

    Setting in motion the Internet of Things

    British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
    Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

    Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

    Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
    Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

    Cult competition The Moth goes global

    The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
    Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

    Pakistani women come out fighting

    Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
    Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

    Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

    The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
    LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

    Education: LGBT History Month

    Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
    11 best gel eyeliners

    Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

    Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
    Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

    Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

    The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
    Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

    Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

    After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
    Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

    Climate change key in Syrian conflict

    And it will trigger more war in future
    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
    Is this the way to get young people to vote?

    Getting young people to vote

    From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot