Directed by Steven Spielberg, starring Eric Bana, Daniel Craig, Ciarán Hinds, Mathieu Kassovitz, Hanns Zischler, Ayelet Zorer, Geoffrey Rush, Lynn Cohen and Mathieu Amalric.

'Munich' is Steven Spielberg's 24th feature film and his most political. The story of the aftermath of the Munich massacre - when eleven Israeli athletes at the 1972 Olympics were murdered by Palestinians from a PLO faction called Black September - is a long way from the trademark sentimentality and child-like escapism of 'ET' or 'Jurassic Park', or even more serious films like 'Schindler's List'. Beginning with the catch-all disclaimer "inspired by real events", the film opens with the Black September gunmen making their way into the Olympic Village towards the hostages. The first ten minutes of 'Munich' are charged and heart-stopping. Vintage footage of the events unfolding is cut with Spielberg's re-creation of proceedings and the divergent responses of people watching TV broadcasts around the world. Then everything slows down.

Flashbacks to the dramatic events in Munich are scattered throughout the rest of the film which focuses on a hit squad set up by Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir (Cohen) in the wake of the massacre. Led by Mossad bodyguard Avner (Bana), the five agents travel to Europe to kill a series of Palestinians who have been identified by Mossad as the architects of Munich. Like any straightforward hitman movie, each member of the team has their own specialty: ruthless (Craig), former toymaker and now bombmaker Robert (Kassovitz), document forger Hans (Zischler) and Carl (Irishman Hinds), whose job it is "to worry". They also have the help - or otherwise - of a steely superior (Rush) and a shadowy French informant-for-hire (Amalric). As their mission continues, there's paranoia, double agents and suspicious loyalties. So far, so 1970s-style conspiracy thriller. But the clunky episodic nature of 'Munich' means that there's not enough suspense for viewers to forget the politics.

As it is, politics are impossible to avoid. While it is reassuring that Spielberg has been attacked by members of the Israeli government and Palestinians alike - it shows that he has achieved some degree of balance - there's ambiguity and complexity aplenty here. 'Munich' is, primarily, a morality tale about what happens when a good man does bad things for a good cause. As one of the characters points out, "All of this blood comes back to us" and Spielberg's final shot is an ominous one of the pre-9/11 New York skyline.

Although 'Munich' has a handful of gripping set-pieces and it is undoubtedly beautifully made, there is still an emotional coldness at the film's heart which lets the whole thing down. There are strong performances across the board from the actors concerned but when you spend two-and-a-half hours with these characters and they still remain aloof and un-involving, the fault has to be laid at the feet of the scriptwriters - Tony Kushner and Eric Roth - and the director.

'Munich' will undoubtedly cause debate and discussion although, because of its flaws, perhaps not entirely in the way Spielberg intended.

Caroline Hennessy