Posts Tagged ‘Munich’

Metro In Focus: Spielberg’s skill in listening is what sets him apart.

By Richard Crouse – Metro In Focus

You don’t have to overtax the Google machine to find negative comments about being on set with Steven Spielberg. Type in “working with Steven Spielberg” and in 0.57 seconds 20,900,000 results appear, including an article where Shia LaBeouf rants, “He’s less a director than he is a f—ing company.”

LaBeouf’s resume is dotted with Spielberg-produced or -directed films like Disturbia, Transformers, Eagle Eye and, most famously, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, but if Spielberg ever does the same search it’s unlikely they’ll ever pair up again. “You get there, and you realize you’re not meeting the Spielberg you dream of,” LaBeouf told Variety. “You’re meeting a different Spielberg, who is in a different stage in his career.”

But that’s pretty much it for the negativity. There’s a story about Crispin Glover suing Spielberg for using his likeness in Back to the Future Part II and the critical drone that his films are overly sentimental, but primarily it’s LaBeouf against Spielberg and the world. Most of his other co-workers have nothing but praise for the filmmaker Empire magazine ranked as the greatest film director of all time.

This weekend he returns to theatres with Ready Player One, a sci-fi film that brings a virtual reality world called the OASIS to vivid life. Star Tye Sheridan calls the director a great and passionate collaborator who makes everyone feel equal on set. Co-star Ralph Ineson calls Spielberg “one of the most iconic figures of the last 100 years,” adding that it was difficult to takes notes from him on set. “When he is speaking to you your mind vaguely goes blank the first few times because your internal monologue just goes, ‘My god, Steven Spielberg is giving me a note.’ And then you realize you haven’t actually heard the note.”

All directors give suggestions on set, but it seems it’s the way Spielberg speaks to his actors that sets him apart.

Ed Burns remembers making a mess of several takes on the set of Saving Private Ryan to the point where Tom Hanks said to him, “I’ve seen you act before, and this isn’t acting.” Afraid he would be replaced, he got nervous and continued to blow take after take but Spielberg didn’t offer guidance. Two weeks passed. The cast started laying bets on who would be fired first.

Turns out, no one was fired and Burns learned a lesson he would later take into his own directorial efforts like Sidewalks of New York. The actor reports that Spielberg said, “I like to give my actors three takes to figure it out. If I step in after the first take and give you a note, especially with young actors, you’ll hear me rather than your own voice.”

Burns calls the experience “a life changer” adding it taught him that being a director is “about knowing when to give direction.”

The superstar director says the listening lesson was learned early in life.  “From a very young age my parents taught me probably the most valuable lesson of my life: Sometimes it’s better not to talk, but to listen.”

There’s someone else Spielberg keeps in mind when making a film. “I always like to think of the audience when I am directing. Because I am the audience.”


munich-imageThis past Christmas season saw two movies hit the theatres that could easily have been Stephen Spielberg productions—The Chronicles of Narnia and King Kong. Both feature the kind of fantasy that he made his name with, and both are the kind of large epic style films that he has as deft touch with. Instead we were treated to the flip side of Spielberg—the serious filmmaker.
Munich is loosely based on the book Vengeance by Canadian journalist George Jonas and details the aftermath of the Black September terror raid at the 1972 Olympics in Munich in which eleven Israeli athletes were murdered. In retaliation, the Israeli government recruited a group of Mossad agents to track down and execute those responsible for the attack.

Eric Bana plays the head of the team of Mossad hit men, and for my money is the film’s tragic flaw. Bana has been given three shots at A-list stardom in the past couple of years—more than anyone else I can think of—and yet leaves virtually no impression on me as a viewer. I wanted to like him in The Hulk, but found his performance flat. I barely remember him in Troy even though he was second billed to Brad Pitt and now in Munich he, once again, fails to impress. As Avner, a former bodyguard of Golda Meir, we should believe that he is willing to do anything for his country, that he is an ideologue who is willing to break the law to get revenge, but also feel empathy for him. Unfortunately Bana just isn’t strong enough or interesting enough an actor to carry this kind of material.
Munich is a technically well-made film, although seems a bit flabby. Overlong at 164 minutes, the movie often feels like a grocery list of assassinations. One after the other people are stalked and blown up with very little variance in their modus operandi. Mid-way through I was dreading having to sit through all eleven killings. Luckily the movie is more than simply a revenge drama, and starts to take a different shape as Avner’s conscience gets the best of him. His moral wrestling match should be at the heart of the film, but unfortunately is a bit too obvious and in Bana’s hands doesn’t seem realistic.
Munich is an ambitious film that sags under its own weight.