Munich: The Edge of War, 2021.
Directed by Christian Schwochow.
Starring George MacKay, Jannis Niewöhner, Jessica Brown Findlay, Jeremy Irons, Sandra Hüller, Martin Wuttke, Alex Jennings, Liv Lisa Fries, August Diehl, and Robert Bathurst.
War in Europe is imminent, Munich represents a final chance to stop Hitler in his tracks, and two friends hold that hope in their hands. Munich: The Edge of War is about sides working together, overcoming cultural divides and saving one another from a second world war.
This pre-war potboiler from the pen of Robert Harris moves along at quite a pace. Through a combination of establishing flashbacks relationships are quickly defined, six years pass and audiences are plunged into 1938. Europe is on the cusp of war against Germany, as Hitler pushes to reclaim lands by threatening to invade Czechoslovakia.
Director Christian Schwochow ensures his camera is constantly in motion, maintaining momentum and ramping up tension even in the quiet moments. George MacKay and Jannis Niewohner sketch a conflicted friendship of political opposites in youth, which turns to reconciliation and partnership by the close. Jeremy Irons offers up a dependable turn as Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, while strong support comes from a cross section of European character actors.
Chief amongst these is Liv Lisa Fries, who plays reactionary Lenya, both fleeting love interest and casualty of this Nazi world order. She is free spirited, outspoken and represents a optimism which soon proves to be short lived. Elsewhere, Ulrich Mattes breathes life into Adolf Hitler, managing to avoid caricature whilst instilling him with certain degree of fanaticism.
Unfortunately, Jessica Brown Finlay get less to work with, as her role becomes little more than a cameo as wife to George MacKay’s Hugh Legat. It is a thankless part with minimal screentime, which gives the actor little to do. Either looking upset as he departs, or overjoyed upon his return it feels like an afterthought tacked on for plot purposes.
In terms of production design both London, Munich and Berlin are recreated in their period finery, which lends this film a certain degree of authenticity. Subtle references to the atrocities of war are foreshadowed on screen, as Germany slowly succumbs to Nazi rule. Jewish citizens are singled out and humiliated by Hitler’s SS, Jannis Niewohner’s Paul van Hartman feels friendships erode, while allegiances start shift.
Munich: The Edge of War manages to feel like something of substance, thanks in part to these details that acknowledgement this dark time in history. This never sets out to be The Boys from Brazil or Schindler’s List, but instead focuses on being a good thriller. That audiences know the ending is academic, since this is all about the journey undertaken more than the destination reached. A fact which should not detract from the slick piece of war time espionage that this Netflix effort manages to deliver.
Companion pieces worth considering include The Imitation Game, Atonement and Downfall if only to provide some cinematic perspective. With their divergent tonal shifts, cleverly crafted character studies, and differing approaches to this piece of history, they would make worthy additions to any watch list.
Flickering Myth Rating: Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★