A British diplomat travels to Munich in the run-up to World War II, where a former classmate of his from Oxford is also en route, but is working for the German government.
‘Munich: The Edge of War’ is a German/British co-production based on Robert Harris’s novel about the build up to the Second World War, focusing on the lead up to the 1938 conference in Munich where the famous (or infamous) agreement was signed that ceded control of the Sudetenland from Czechoslovakia to Germany. It tells the story from several perspectives, most notably those of two former friends at university, who are now involved in positions close to their respective governments in the UK and in Germany. Neville Chamberlain (and to a lesser extent Adolf Hitler) also features prominently, and a large part of the films narrative is an attempt to reappraise Chamberlain’s attempts at appeasement as a vital component in providing time for the allies to prepare for war. I am no historian and cannot comment on whether this is a fair view on the situation or not, but this movie does make a persuasive argument.
I have a keen interest in the Second World War and it was good to watch a movie that looks at the build up and not just the action itself, and I particularly enjoyed the time given over to the characters wrangling with the conflict between their personal view, their duty and attempts to accurately foresee how things would play out. It is clear to all that Hitler is a dangerous man, but how to best play him is not yet clear, and I particularly liked Jeremy Irons as Neville Chamberlain outlining the rationale for the steps he took. Chamberlain is a maligned figure and his policy of appeasement is often blamed for Hitler taking the proverbial mile when given an inch – ‘Munich: The Edge of War’ suggests it was more complicated than that. George Mackay and Jannis Niewöhner play the respective leads and I thought both were fine in the roles, but it’s when Jeremy Irons is on screen that the movie really sparks into life.
‘Munich: The Edge of War’ is a good historical drama that manages to wring tension out of its premise despite the end outcome being clear to all watching. Its biggest strength is in its character study of Chamberlain, making you think differently about the decisions he made, with his concerns seeming far more reasonable at the time than history has perhaps shown them to be. It’s available on Netflix now and is worth checking out if you’re interested in the subject.
Directed By: Christian Schwochow
Starring: George Mackay, Jannis Niewöhner, Jeremy Irons, Ulrich Matthes, Alex Jennings, Sandra Hüller, Liv Lisa Fries, August Diehl, Jessica Brown Findlay, Anjli Mohindra, Mark Lewis Jones and Abigail Cruttenden