Sword of Gideon (1986)
Director: Michael Anderson.
Starring: Steven Bauer (Avner), Michael York (Robert), Robert Joy (Hans), Laurent Malet (Jean), Peter Dvorsky (Carl), Rod Steiger (Mordechai Samuels), Lino Venturam (Papa), Colleen Dewhurst (Golda Meir), Leslie Hope (Shoshana), John Hirsch (Avner's Father), Cyrielle Clair (Jeanette Von Lesseps), Linda Griffiths (Carls Widow), Daniel Alfie (Ali Salameh), Hrant Alianak (Wael Zwaiter), Sonia Benezra (Mrs. Hamshari).
Mossad team hunts down terrorists involved in the 1972 Munich Olympic massacre of Israeli athletes
Spoiler Warning: below is a summary of the entire film.
Deadline Munich, September 5, 1972. Terrorists, believed members Black September movement attack Israeli athletes in Olympic Village. At lest one dead. Eleven hostages held
Terrorists enter the Israeli section of the Olympic Village. They break into a room. One man escapes out a window, but the other one is caught by the terrorists. Another athlete enters and knocks a terrorist out cold, but he is shot to death. Terrorists demand an escape plane.
A bus filled with the terrorists and athletes drives out to an airport. Authorities agree to helicopter them to Furstenfeldbruck military airbase. A helicopter brings them to the military base where German police open fire on the terrorists. The only trouble is that all it takes is one guy to fire into the helicopter with his automatic weapon and kill all the hostages. Counter-attack by German military tragic failure. All hostages are dead. The helicopter is blown up.
An Israeli unit prepares a surprise attack on their enemy. Four explosions go off and the Israelis rush the place. All the men inside surrender. Then the commander comes out and is caught. But it all turns out to be an exercise. It was scheduled for the next day, but the leader of the raid, Avner, says: "I know, but by tomorrow the enemy might have been ready, sir." The commander laughs and says he likes that. "It shows initiative."
Avner, goes home and surprises his wife. She has been painting. They kiss. He takes her to bed.
There is a knock at the door. Special delivery. Avner is called in for a mission. His wife tells him to go see his father first. If he has anything to lose, his father will know. His father tells him to ignore it. Donít mix in with the Mossad. The secret service wants the best in everything, dad says. He crushes an orange in his right hand and says: "See this? Thatís what theyíll do to you."
Avner goes anyway. He goes to a small shop in town. A fellow named Samuels jumps up and welcomes Avner. Avner asks what's this is all about? ISamuels says if Avner is what Israel needs, they will call on him. If he volunteers and he measures up, then he will be called. Samuels gives him a card that tells him where to report for training.
Aver reports in. A man comes out and runs around Avner. He wants him to jump rope to improve his performance in shooting. The trainer says whatís important is the balance, not the strength. Avner is told to pick a pistol and he does so. Itís a big pistol he has chosen. The trainer shows him a small gun, a .22 caliber Biretta and tells him that is all he needs. And rule number one is to always shoot twice in a row, never once.
Shoshana awakens Avner with breakfast in bed. She wants to go to the beach. She says she wants to show off her body off as long as she can. She is pregnant. Avner is very happy, but he realizes he is running late and has to hurry and get dressed and go. Shoshana is not pleased.
The commander takes Avner to meet the Chief of Staff. He also meets Golda Meir. She tells Avner that his father did a great service for his country and he should be proud. Golda then goes on to talk about their having a homeland again, a Jewish state. But "they" wonít let the Jews live in peace. They are still terrorizing Jews all over the world. And now in Munich. And since no one will defend them, they will defend themselves. All terrorism must be stopped.
Golda says she has decided to strike back. But the guilty must not go unpunished. This is her decision and her responsibility. She says to Avner that he may soon be stepping into history. His commander says he wants Avner to volunteer. Avner has just twenty-four hours to decide.
Avner volunteers and meets with Samuels, who tells him under no circumstances will he be allowed to return to Israel before the mission is complete. Samuels then introduces the other men to Avner: Hans, the document man; Carl, a jack of all trades known as a sweeper; Jean, an expert with cars; and Robert, a demolitions expert. Avner stresses that he would like them to make their decisions as a unit.
The unit meets the head of the Mossad. He gives them a list of seven names. The unit will be responsible for the murder of each one of the men. He says: "You are the Sword of Gideon."
The first man is Ali Salameh, the architect of the massacre at Munich. Then there is Abu Daoud, the founder of Black September and another of the master minds behind Munich. Mahmoud, a Ph. d. in economics, and a leader in Black September. Samuels says they will kill no one but the names on the list. They are not terrorists. If there is the possibility of someone else being killed, they have to abort the mission and try again.
The fourth man is Wael Zwalter who specializes in hijacking and bombings and was last seen in Rome. The fifth man is Mohammed,an Algerian and sometime theatrical producer and terrorist He is also a saboteur and killer for the Popular Front.
Samuels explains that if they get caught, Israel doesnít know them. They are on their own. If someone dies, itís the responsibility of the others to dispose of the body without a trace. And at times they may have to lay low so they will pick their own places.
Avner and Shoshana go visit father. Dad is mad that his son ignored his advice to stay away from Mossad. Dad tells his son that he canít trust these people fully. He should always have another card up his sleeve. He tells his son if he needs some equipment or information, Le Group will get it for him.
Avner tells his wife to think about going abroad after the baby is born. To New York. He has to get an apartment there. He says it will all be paid for.
Rome. Jean races around in the car the group will be using. They have a safe house. The men discuss various ways to get information. Carl finds the name of one of the men on the list in the phone book. They track him down. Avner says the man is as regular as clockwork. A little later, Avner says: "He has written his last poem."
Their target is coming back to his apartment. Avner and Hans shoot him five or six times. They jump into the get away car. It was a piece of cake, if you can call killing a man a piece of cake, says Avner. Carl will pick up anything they might have dropped committing the assassination. Carl warns Avner that the assassination may have been too easy. They have to watch for the enemy that will be looking for them now. If itís that easy for us, then itís that easy for them.
Safehouse. France. Avner fires Jean as the cook, demoting him to dishwasher. As of yet, the men donít have any good leads. Avner telephones and asks to speak with Papa, the name his father gave him to call. They meet in person. Papa explains that the Group runs a business. They buy and sell information. They are able to provide anything he could want. Avner asks him about the whereabouts of Ali Salameh. The man is very elusive so it will cost a lot to receive the information. Avner says he will be happy to pay.
At night the guys go to a French restaurant. Jean apologizes to the group because they are a half an hour late and may have to wait. But itís a good thing they are late because the restaurants explodes as they get close to it. Carl tails some suspicious looking men to the Arab quarter. He calls the guys at the safehouse and three of them rush out to see him.
The four men do some more tailing of the suspects. They see a woman leave something behind for Hamshari. They see Hamshari pick up the woman. It is his wife. Robert decides to use a telephone bomb to kill the man. Avner and Robert sneak into the apartment building and enter the target apartment. Robert works on planting the telephone bomb. In the morning after the wife and little girl have left, they call their target and then explode the bomb.
Avner is at the hospital with flowers. He watches Hamshari's little girl as tears run down her face. He sees the doctor come out with the wife crying. He leaves the hospital, goes to the safehouse and tells the guys their man is dead. Avner feels bad for the little girl and Carl tells him it will pass.
Papa tells Avner that Salameh has poor eyes and gets treated in London or Los Angeles. He also warns Avner that there may be some men who know who they are and what they are doing so he better watch himself.
London. Avner sees some suspicious types that catch his eye. He makes a mental note of it. He takes the subway to meet with Carl. Carl says that they never should have split up the team. The hospital is one of the biggest hospitals in the world. The rest of the guys are in Los Angeles. Carl wonders if Papa deliberately split the group up so they could be more easily exterminated. Avner thinks about it and calls the mission off.
Avner meets a pretty woman in the bar and talks with her. The woman is a fashion buyer. They talk but Avner doesnít follow up. He goes up to write a postcard to Shoshana. Carls asks him to have a nightcap with him, but Avner says he needs to get to sleep. Later Avern comes down to mail a postcard and thinks he hears Carl talking with a woman in the bar. He looks but does not find him.
In the morning Avner checks on Carl and finds him dead in his hotel bed. He sees a womanís lipstick on a cigarette in the ashtray. He also smells the womanís distinctive perfume. Now Avner will have to dispose of the body. That night Carl calls Papa. He wants Papa to have his men dispose of the body. He agrees to have his men do the job.
Frankfurt. Avner pays a call on Carlís wife. She figures out that her husband is dead and starts crying. She asks how did her husband die? He was killed by an enemy agent. She asks: "Tell me, was it worth it?" He doesn't anything. He gives her Carl's things. Avner has to tell her that he does not know where his body is even buried. She then asks him to please get the hell out of her apartment.
Safehouse. France. Avner tells the other men about the woman killer: "I am going to find that woman and kill her." He tells Robert that he could have warned Carl, but didn't. He pays another visit to Papa. He picks her out in Papa's collection of faces. And this one, Papa says, is on the house.
Avner and Robert go bike riding. Robert shows him how the bicycle pump is a gun. But it has just one shot. The team sets up in position. They watch the house. The woman visitor leaves the house of the target. Avner and Jean bike over to the house. Avner shoots her in the chest. Jean shoots her in the head to finish the job.
Hans goes over the documents they found in the womanís house. Avner talks about several of the documents with Papa. The documents lead them to Mohammed. Papa then tells Avner that after he leaves, he never wants to see Avnerís face again. He is one of the most wanted men in Europe and everyday they get calls asking for information about where he is. He wants Avner to go somewhere where even Papa canít find him.
Geneva. Avner goes into a Swiss bank and gets a note from a safety deposit box. It says: "Imperative meet Zurich soonest." And he reads a note that he is a father. He is so happy that he hugs the bank clerk who is a bit taken aback by his exuberance.
Hans and Avner meet with Samuels. He says the woman they killed wasnít on their list and this was just personal vengeance that may have compromised the entire mission. He says the men should have checked with him first. He suggests that they split up for awhile and lay low.
Avner goes to New York. He sees someone coming out backwards from his apartment and puts gun to his head. But the stranger turns out to be his wife. He says he could have killed her. She says she had to see him. When David was born she missed Avner so much. She introduces him to their son. He asks her how she got into the apartment. She says that she told the super she was his wife.
Shoshana says they should go on a vacation. He needs to relax somewhere. She also says she does not want to go back to Israel. If heís here in New York, she wants to be here. She says he is in real trouble. His nerves are shot to hell. Avner gets a phone call from Robert. One of their targets is back in France. His wife is worried about him and says that he canít take much more of this.
Robert has built another bomb. He places the bomb underneath the driverís seat of the target car. The team waits in different cars. A woman gets something out of the car, making the men very nervous. The target comes out to get into his car. A meter maid gives him a ticket for illegal parking. When he gets back in the car the whole vehicle explodes in a huge ball of fire.
When they return to the safehouse Robert says someone has been inside since they left. He goes in to check it out. He finds a bomb hidden under the carpet. He starts to defuse it. He pushes a card through the middle of two pieces of metal. He finds a second bomb under the sink. He is able to defuse that one too. He gives the all clear sign, but when he opens the refrigerator a third bomb explodes killing him. They put blankets over the dead man and pour kerosene over them. They light up the kerosene and leave.
Avner decides to abort the mission now that they have lost two men. He goes to Geneva to check his safety deposit box again. Two of their targets are meeting in the same church in Switzerland. They are number one and two on the list. "Those two would make up for everything," says Jean.
Avner and Hans check out the cathedral. Jean waits in the car. They find the two targets eating in a room with the Catholic priests. Hans starts to shoot, but Avner aborts the mission. They exit under a hail of gunfire from the two terrorists.
Avner looks in his safety deposit box again and reads a note to terminatedthe mission immediately. Avner is very relieved that it is over. He then goes to tell Jean, who is also relieved that it is over. But where is Hans they both wonder? They go out to find him. They find him sitting on a bench dead. He was shot in the head. Jean gets a garbage truck and they put the body inside. Jean and Avner part company.
Tel Aviv. Avner tells Samuels that he wants to go back in the army. Samuels tells him the adjustment wonít be so easy. He tries to console Avner by saying that itís hard to kill a man, but even harder when you have to see their wife and children. But Avner and his men at least have broken up a terrorist network and it will take years before it can be reconstituted.
Avner has his doubts about the mission. He says sending out a handful of men to kill the terrorists canít be the answer. More terrorists will rise to avenge the deaths of the men the Israelis killed. He says no more will he lead men to die in an apartment or on a park bench. And he wonít die either. He quits. Samuels says that he did so well that they have picked up his contract for three more years. Avner says he has the wrong man. Samuels tells him to take a break in New York City for awhile. When he feels rested again, he can come back. Avner says he will come back, but he will decide when.
Avner speaks with his father, who tells him I-told-you-so. Once they have you, they wonít let you go, he says. Avner says heís going to New York. Dad tells him to be prepared, for if Mossad needs him they will come to New York to get him. Avner turns the whole situation around on dad. He tells his father that he is proud to be his son. Dad is stunned. He kisses and hugs his son.
New York. On vacation Avner and Shoshana play tennis. She mentions that he has to think soon about what he will do. Back home there is a knock on the door. Itís Samuels. He says he has come here to find out if he loves his country as much as he loves his family. He has a job for him in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Avner says no. Samuels reminds Avner that he is a wanted man. Avner still says no. So Samuels turns to threats. The Mossad wonít be able to protect him anymore. And he may soon find out what trouble he is in.
The Mossad takes his money out of the Swiss Bank Account. Avner is very angry. With his family he goes looking a cheaper apartments. Shoshana tells the landlord that they will take the apartment. His works as a taxi driver. He answers a call for a cab and finds Samuels waiting for him. Avner gets really mad at him. But Samuels wonít give up. Avner says heís not a killer for hire. Samuels gives Avner a check for his back pay: $112,000 dollars. Avner rips up the check and leaves.
"On October 6, 1973 when Egypt attacked Israel, Avner returned to his country to fight in the Yom Kippur war. He led a commando unit across the Sinai desert into Egypt. Since then all the remaining men on Avnerís list have died. Nonetheless terrorism has escalated and governments throughout the world are still seeking the near impossible; a civilized response to acts of wanton savagery."
Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.
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