Directed by Christian Schwochow — Screenplay by Ben Power.
Netflix releases an overwhelming amount of films on their service every year, and while not all of them are as great as their awards players, there are several hidden gems in their content library. Sometimes, though, their library can also feel like a dumping ground. In January of 2022, I’ve been a little bit worried about their recent English-language releases. I thought Monika Mitchell’s Brazen (a Lifetime-esque thriller starring Alyssa Milano) was bland and lifeless, and Rick Jacobson’s The Royal Treatment was a very cheesy, very generic, and very predictable romantic comedy. Though it isn’t without faults, Christian Schwochow’s terribly titled Munich – The Edge of War (the main title makes me think of the Spielberg film and the subtitle makes me think of it as an extremely generic picture) was much more up my alley. Based on what I’ve seen, this is the best 2022 Netflix film released thus far this January.
Schwochow’s Munich – The Edge of War is based on Robert Harris’ historical fiction novel of the same name and tells a fictional account of the 1938 Munich agreement between Adolf Hitler (played by Ulrich Matthes) and then-UK Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain (played by Jeremy Irons). However, the film is primarily seen from the perspectives of Hugh Legat (played by George MacKay) and Paul von Hartmann (played by Jannis Niewöhner), two young men who, in this film, try desperately to stop Chamberlain from signing the agreement because they know how dangerous Adolf Hitler is.
Other than its generic title, one of the huge stumbling blocks for this kind of film is that so many films have been made about World War Two, and, truth be told, there are many better films about the Second World War. But I do think it is interesting to see a new film that is more focused on Chamberlain’s era than Churchill’s, which most people are arguably much more familiar with, and I really do think this is a fascinating and well-made film. However, even though this film is based on historical fiction, it is a huge problem for this film that there really isn’t any tension in the scenes in the latter half of the film that are meant to put you on the edge of your seat. This isn’t Inglourious Basterds, so you know how it is going to end.
It also doesn’t help that the film takes way too long to get going. The first forty minutes are very dry and stuffy, and, in a way, the movie doesn’t really begin until you’re almost an hour into the film. Although the film is convincingly well-made, I also must say that I had a problem with the editing in certain scenes, where the cuts just felt incredibly hectic and distracting (I also thought that the film was a little bit overreliant on close-ups).
Jeremy Irons is quite good as Neville Chamberlain, and he lends a bit of gravitas to a film that is primarily led by two much younger actors (who are both solid), but I am not sure how I feel about this piece of speculative historical fiction’s attempt to reshape your understanding of Chamberlain, which it absolutely tries to do (and some historians will almost definitely think it is overly deferential to him).
So, it takes too long to get started and the ending isn’t as gripping as it was meant to be, but Christian Schwochow’s Munich – The Edge of War is a fascinating drama that tries to reframe Chamberlain’s role in the build-up to the Second World War. It isn’t really going to be a hidden gem, but it is a decent film. However, I also suspect that it will just be overlooked and forgotten in a week or two, which is a bit of a shame. You should definitely see it if you like these types of films.
6 out of 10
– Review Written by Jeffrey Rex Bertelsen.