Top 100 American Movie Quotes of the 21st Century: #84

The actor:Eric Bana
The character:Avner
The film:Munich
The quote:“Every man we’ve killed has been replaced by worse!”

A person’s judgment of the best Disney movie they’ve ever seen and the best Spielberg movie they’ve ever seen are both largely dictated by how old they were when they saw it. It’s the reason why Gen X critics rhapsodize about Jaws, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and E.T., geriatric Millennials settle on Jurassic Park or Saving Private Ryan, and young Millennials find a way to fete A.I.: Artificial Intelligence or Minority Report. Doubtless the Zoomers will have some case for Ready Player One and West Side Story once they reach more prominent positions in movie writing. I didn’t see Munich until I was thirty years old, but it’s not lost on me that a film which I’d call top-5 Spielberg came out when I was fourteen.

The third film of Spielberg’s loose trilogy about 9/11 (which includes Minority Report and War of the Worlds but always excludes The Terminal for some reason), Munich is far and away the most effective because it understands the utter fruitlessness of the War on Terror even before the wave of documentaries which dominated non-fiction American films in the second half of the decade. Fahrenheit 9/11 beat him to it (as it beat almost everyone to it), but Munich gets there before No End in Sight, before Taxi to the Dark Side, before Restrepo, My Country, My Country, Iraq in Fragments, and Operation Homecoming. What if all a government can do, even if it’s acting clandestinely, outside the law, is play whackamole with a hydra? The men of Avner’s team succeed in killing a number of the Black September figures who murdered Israeli Olympians in Munich. They succeed in killing or harming some number of innocents. They succeed, in some cases, in getting killed themselves. This quote is a cry of frustration from Avner, who has realized belatedly he’s going to spend the best years of his life killing for Israel rather than raising a daughter. It’s also one of the most simple and penetrative critiques of imperialist thought that I’ve ever seen. We’ve come a long way from those ’30s films which glorified the British Empire, which found that even in scenarios of tremendous hardship or tragedy for the white oppressors, there was some conclusion to be had, some completion of a mission that portends peace for the time or the bereaved. Munich understands that there will always be someone else, perhaps even more dangerous or violent or ruthless than the last man to be killed, who will plan something more savage than the dead man could have dreamed of.

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