Munich is about a group of top-secret assassins recruited by the Israeli government to track down and eliminate the men behind the murder of 11 Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich summer Olympics. The Black September Organization, a Palestinian terrorist group, claims responsibility for the massacre but after the dust has settled the surviving murderers and masterminds are scattered about Europe and the Middle East. The movie follows just one Israeli hit squad out of a number, who act to retaliate for Munich but also both to prevent and discourage further outrages. Avner (Eric Bana), the photogenic leader of the movie's team, gets their instructions from Ephraim (Geoffrey Rush), a Mossad handler who teases Avner about the imposed official secrecy of the operation that requires him to withhold the information Avner most wants—i.e., that they're targeting the men actually responsible for Munich. Avner never gets that assurance and the strain of what he's doing finally destroys his sense of righteous mission.
The movie quickly establishes a rhythm: each assassination requires Avner's team to solve technical problems involving the target's location and lifestyle, and each success is followed by increasing tension among the team and doubt on Avner's part about what they're doing. Spielberg clearly thinks the assassins' subsequent questioning of their activities deepens his action-picture methods; to my mind, the relationship between Spielberg's methods and that questioning is far less productive. First of all, the way in which Spielberg varies the hits (travelogue settings, nail-biting hitches) suggests that he's primarily hoping to hold our interest with the (inevitably glamorous) suspense mechanics. And because the assassinations are conceived and shot as entertainment we never get a sense of what it's actually like to be a government assassin, to be, in essence, a lethal civil servant. In other words, Munich entirely overlooks what might well be the central subject to a documentarian. (The movie doesn't even make clear why Avner's team sometimes employs elaborate, risky techniques, such as planting a bomb in a man's home phone rather than just shooting him on the street, like the man before and one after, which lends a discordant note of slapstick to the movie.) Spielberg goes into each assassination doing what he does best—engineer excitement by manipulating perspective and timing. So when the assassins encounter impediments, we root for them in a way all too familiar from countless movies built around merely private, rather than quasi-judicial, acts of mayhem. Consequently, the brow-scrunching and ethical debates don't grow out of the assassinations, they merely follow them, and are not only inadequate but irrelevant.