One Day in September (1999)

Jim McKay: When I was a kid my father used to say our greatest hopes and our worst fears are seldom realized. Our worst fears have been realized tonight. They have now said there were eleven hostages; two were killed in their rooms yesterday morning, nine were killed at the airport tonight. They’re all gone.

Every now and then, a television announcer just nails the perfect quote. “Do you believe in miracles? Yes!” “Down goes Frazier! Down goes Frazier! Down goes Frazier!” “He’s moving like a tremendous machine!” “The Giants win the pennant!!”

ABC Olympic anchor Jim McKay nailed the sadness of the 1972 Munich Olympics Massacre.

Basically, a group of terrorists invaded the Israeli Olympic Team’s apartments in the Olympic village. They killed two men there; they killed the rest during a clusterfuck of a rescue attempt.

“One Day in September” covers this tragedy, featuring interviews with a surviving terrorist, as well as widows and now-grown children of fathers who never came home.  Also, there is plenty of TV coverage from those days. At one point, the German police were climbing on the building dressed as athletes. TV showed this live. The terrorists were watching. Duh. The bad guys weren’t fooled.

They negotiated a deal. They’d take buses to helicopters, who would fly the terrorists and the hostages to an airport, where a waiting 707 would fly them off to some undecided Arab country, and everyone would go home happy. The German police set up five snipers to kill the five terrorists once they got off the helicopters. Brilliant!

Except, it turns out there were nine terrorists. The snipers had no radios to talk to one another. One of the snipers…

It’s just abysmal.

The terrorists killed all the hostages: they tossed a grenade in one helicopter, and machine-gunned everyone in the other.

This film never hooked me. I’m a documentary fan, and I’ve seen some awesome documentaries (as well as some great dramatic films) about the 1972 Munich Olympiad.  The filmmaker seemed mostly interested in showcasing the German police’s inefficiency, and the crude desire of the Olympic executives to have the games continue. Yes, there were mistakes made. Yes, the Olympic officials were kind of dicks.

But the film…I don’t know. It didn’t capture the tension of those days. The filmmakers used a lot of rock music in the soundtrack (“Immigrant Song,” by Led Zeppelin, a Deep Purple tune, etc).

This was a huge tragedy. I admit, I’m not a huge fan of the Olympics. Other than women’s gymnastics and women’s softball, I just don’t care.  I never really have, especially since we sent our basketball “Dream Team” to destroy everyone. I admire the athletes, and I wish them all well. I just don’t really get stoked about watching fencing, white-water rafting, or weightlifting. Munich 1972 was a bitter tragedy, just a horrible event. The tragedy here wasn’t that the USA didn’t win a gazillion medals. People were KILLED, for God’s sake. That isn’t supposed to happen when the world comes together in peace and friendly competition, or whatever yak vomit NBC uses as ad copy this go round.

There are times when a sports story transcends just being about sports. Munich 1972 was an amazing example of this.

In this film, director Kevin Macdonald seems to be making a film about how cool it is to be making a film about the 1972 Olympics. His approach totally missed the solemnity of the event.  And there are few things more solemn than what happened that long day back in September, 1972.

Grade: C

(note: Through some satanic means, this thing won the 2000 Best Documentary Oscar. Read Roger Ebert’s review for his opinion on this. I agree totally.)


About tom

B.A. in Literature, Minor in Film Theory and Criticism, thus meaning all I’m trained is to write blog posts here. Neptune is my favorite planet–it vents methane into the solar system like my brother does. I think Chicken McNuggets look like Pennsylvania, Illinois, and Indiana. There are times when I’m medicated, which is why I wrote about McNuggets. Buy some today and tell me I’m wrong! Anyway, Beyond that: mammal, Floridian, biped.Good Night, and Good Luck. Besos, tom
This entry was posted in Academy Award Winners, Documentaries, Films, Films 2012 and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to One Day in September (1999)

  1. Kzinti says:

    It was probably still in the memories of the people who watched it live. Something you’d never forget.


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