Director: Christian Schwochow
Writer: Ben Power
Starring: Jeremy Irons, George McKay, Jannis Niewöhner, Sandra Hüller, Liv Lisa Fries, August Diehl, Jessica Brown Findlay, Anjli Mohindra, Ulrich Matthes, Mark Lewis Jones
Netflix’s latest film, Munich: The Edge of War, which is based on the novel of the same name by Robert Harris, is an attempt to re-evaluate Neville Chamberlain’s legacy. Chamberlain is often seen as naïve in his approach to The Munich Agreement, in that he shouldn’t have believed Hitler would not invade other countries. This film argues that Chamberlain wasn’t naïve but looking at the future and using the delaying of conflict to prepare for the inevitable war on the horizon. Through a mix of fiction and fact, Munich: The Edge of War, follows Chamberlain on the trip to Mucich through the eyes of a fictional civil servant, Hugh Legat (George McKay).
In 1932 Hugh is in Oxford with his friends, looking forward to a bright future. Six years later and they are on the brink of war. Hitler is threatening to mobilise and in a last-ditch effort to avoid conflict prime minister Neville Chamberlain (Jeremy Irons) travels with a group of advisors and assistants, including Hugh, to Munich to discuss with Hitler, what would become The Munich Agreement.
This is something that you go into knowing what the ending is. There is no attempt to change history on a grand scale, other than making out Chamberlain isn’t the way the history books in school taught us. Instead, he’s a desperate to avoid more horrors for his country. He remembers the effects that World War One had on Britain and would do anything to avoid re-living them. In one of the early scenes, Chamberlain is walking and discussing the lengths he would go to avoid another war. There’s an earnestness about him, made stronger by the excellent performance by Jeremy Irons, who is oozing charisma. You’d almost believe that he was responsible for the eventual victory over Hitler with the way the film portrays him.
Mixed within the truth of history is a more melodramatic story about Hugh and his German counterpart, Paul von Hartmann (Jannis Niewöhner). They both went to Oxford together, and the connection between them allows them to join together to attempt to stop Hitler, with Paul passing documents over to Hugh while in Munich. It’s an interesting and surprisingly tense story, despite already knowing how things would go. Both Hugh and Paul are well-written and believable. Saying that, it does tend to feel like a soap opera with the film starting with Hugh’s strained relationship due to his work having to miss most of their anniversary dinner. The first couple of scenes shouldn’t put you off though, get pass that and it’s a fascinating and engaging political drama about a turning point in history, with moments of extremism that feel all too relevant today.
Director Christian Schwochow, who previously directed episodes of The Crown, manages to create an often-tense drama, especially with the late events to Hugh and Paul. Some of the handheld camera scenes, especially when we’re first seeing 1930’s London is a bit jarring. It takes away from the detail of the sets and costumes when everything is shaking so much it’s making you a little queasy. There’s no real reason for it.
Munich: The Edge of War is a solid drama that is elevated by an incredible performance from Jeremy Irons. It’s mission is to make Chamberlain seem like someone who was thinking more long-term, and not the naïve leader who was fooled by Hitler, and it succeeds in doing that.
Thanks for reading! If you liked my review, please subscribe to never miss a post: