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Just Saw [Insert Movie Title Here]...

...or how my MFA in screenwriting ruined any chance of enjoying a movie like a normal person. If I apply what I've learned to existing films, would it have made a better film?

SPOILER WARNING: Please be advised, I plan to discuss plot points in detail so if you haven't seen the movie and don't want the surprise ruined, stop here.

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Location: California, United States

Tuesday, January 03, 2006


Logline: Israel sends an assassination team to kill the terrorists responsible for the death of their athletes during the 1972 Olympic games in Munich.

The Good Idea: A compelling "what if" scenario based on a best selling book directed by Steven Spielberg.

Why it worked:

The central dilemma faced by team leader Avner as he dispatches each terrorist is: Is killing ever justified? His actions are sanctioned by Golda Meir (though not officially acknowledged), but as his missions progress, he wonders if he is any better than the men he is killing.

It's a powerful and frighteningly relevant question complicated by the backdrop of a morally ambiguous world where information is bartered with no regard for nationality or loyalty. It became far simpler for Avner to carry out his mission than to live with the consequences of a world that he helped create. Here the theme is delivered: The human toll from killing is far greater than a mere body count.

The use of food as a metaphor for Avner's state of mind along with his anxiety once he realized he was being hunted were well executed.

The final moment where Ephraim refuses to break bread with Avner with the Twin Towers as a backdrop forces the audience to acknowledge the price Avner paid for his loyalty and ask if his actions ultimately solved anything.

Why it didn't work:

The death of the athletes was Israel's nightmare realized and created a deep wound in the psyche of a nation. However, intercutting scenes of their death with Avner making love to his wife were not effective because we were never given a direct, personal connection between Avner and the athletes. For example, was he there as a guard and failed his duty, or were any of the athletes close friends of his?

It would seem to make more emotional sense that the haunting intrusion would be from the death of his team members with whom he shared personal connections and overall responsibility rather than from athletes with whom he shared a national empathy.

Perhaps a more organic place to intercut the athletes' death may be during Avner's final attempt to kill Salameh when he might ask himself if their deaths justify this act.


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