Munich: The Edge of War, 2021.
Directed by Christian Schwochow.
Starring George MacKay, Jessica Brown Findlay, Jeremy Irons, Jannis Niewöhner, Sandra Hüller, Martin Wuttke.
September 1938, following years of rising Facism in Europe, Hitler is intent on expanding Germany’s influence across Europe. In an effort to keep the peace, both sides strive to achieve a meeting between Neville Chamberlain and Hitler himself. Diplomats on both sides soon discover how tenuous peace is and perhaps war is inevitable.
Adapted from Robert Harris’ best selling novel, Munich: The Edge of War focuses on two University friends Hugh Legat and Hartman played by George MacKay and Jannis Niewöhner respectively. The group find themselves working for the German and British Governments as tensions escalate and the risk of war between Britain and Germany becomes close to a reality. Hartman is approached by senior German officials worried Hitler won’t keep the peace and so makes an effort for his old friend to help.
This film perhaps benefits from its position as a thriller rather than by the numbers period drama. In its second act the tension ratchets up a notch as both sides strive to keep the piece, knowing a slight misstep could prove costly and with Hartman’s position especially dangerous.
One of the selling points is Jeremy Irons’ role as Neville Chamberlain which has proved inspired casting while it is a supporting role he lights up the screen every time he appears showing a sense of world weariness and dry wit. The two other standouts in the cast are the two leads Mackay proving himself a bona fide leading man fresh off the huge success of 1917 and his role in the True History of the Kelly Gang.
Niewöhner is a revelation in one of his first English language films, selling the high stakes while having excellent chemistry with MacKay. The film really comes alive when the two characters interact and having them mostly apart until the second act really works to help make their scenes more impactful, we get a real sense of the ups and downs of the friendship and the appreciation they have for each other. If there is a weak link in the cast it is perhaps Jessica Brown Findlay who is more of a cameo appearance as Legat’s worn out wife, tired of his late nights and constant attention to his work.
This is a very well executed film from a technical standpoint and it looks sumptuous. Director Christian Schwochow has previously been involved in The Crown and so clearly understands how to make grand scale period projects like this showing an eye for detail. The opening sequence set in 1932 showing the friends at Oxford is a real marvel and shows that the film will look the part.
The most difficult aspect the film to deal with is that we know war does ultimately break out just a year later but this never overshadows events and it remains a constantly gripping watch that maintains a tense mood. The way the film depicts some of the social issues of the time felt scarily timely and not too on the nose.
Munich: The Edge of War is a riveting very well put together film that is true to its source material. It may perhaps fly under the awards radar but is worthy perhaps of some recognition and in another year Irons would be in the mix. The lead performances are terrific and the period detail is faultless. Audiences will likely be gripped for its two hour runtime and perhaps surprised by the story.
Flickering Myth Rating: Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★