Whilst the atrocities of WWII have been well and truly documented in many forms throughout the years, whether from a fictional view point or something that prides itself on historical accuracy, the build up to WWII hasn’t received such attention. That is what director Christian Schwochow aims to provide with this adaptation of the novel ‘Munich’ by Robert Harris, exclusively for Netflix.
A predominantly fictionalised telling of the true events that occurred in Munich, 1938. Hitler’s grasp on Europe is becoming threatening, and in an attempt to obtain peace between Britain and Germany, Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain (Jeremy Irons) is willing to proceed with negotiations to allow Hitler (Ulrich Matthes) to seize control over Sudentenland.
Oxford University graduate and translator in the German Foreign Office, Paul von Hartman (Jannis Niewöhner) comes into possession of a document which describes Hitler’s intention to conquer Europe. In an attempt to overthrow Hitler’s regime, Hartman seeks the help of fellow Oxford graduate and estranged friend, Hugh Legat (George MacKay), Chamberlain’s personal aid. The pair will have to scheme their way into the meeting, put aside their personal differences and partake in some espionage in order to exchange information that could potentially prevent the outbreak of an imminent world war.
With this taking place before the harrowing clutches of the war, Christian Schwochow’s modest war based drama provides a sharp and intriguing what-if scenario that demands a more narrative focused direction, allowing its cast to tell you a story, as apposed to throwing you straight into the thick of it all, and reliving the chaotic events that once took place.
MacKay has shown his dramatic capabilities, even that in a similar scenario, being given top billing in Sam Mendes’ 1917 only a few years ago. But instead of being thrusted into the front line of battle, he is instead roped into the front lines of government relations as once again he is against the clock, with vital information in his possession that could save the lives of many. Where this story gets intense, is that it is all to be done right under Hitler’s nose.
MacKay gets some great moments with Irons, who turns in an elegant performance as Chamberlain, and more so with his on screen friend, Niewöhner. Though much more is evident in the later stages of the film, when the story really ramps up the stakes and provides us with a more spy-thriller tone.
Its third act is undoubtably where the movie shines the most. The opening act is slow to get starting, with its middle act taking its time to establish the motives of its characters and allow us time to fully divulge in its eventful setting. But when the spy element finally kicks into gear, it drags Schwochow’s tame thriller beyond felling more than just mundane drama.
Not the most polished or stylish of directions, and lacks the set pieces that its source material would overwise demand. Impressive era based landscaping, and some great performances from its main cast are the boasting factors of Munich: The Edge of War. A middling affair that fails to reach the broader scope it was going for. Relying more on its characters, script and the progression of its central story. But it has its own flavour, one that seems to set itself apart from recent film entries set within the same era.