Directed by: Christian Schwochow
Premise: Based on the novel by Robert Harris. Before the outbreak of World War II, two estranged friends, one British and the other German, work for their respective governments. They try to make the British prime minister realize the threat Hitler represents to Europe.
What Works: Munich: The Edge of War imagines a German official who tries to warn the British of Adolf Hitler’s intentions before the outbreak of World War II. Paul (Jannis Niewöhner) comes into possession of the Hossbach Memorandum, a Nazi document in which Hitler outlined plans for continental conquest. Paul has realized who and what Hitler really is and he attempts to pass the document to Hugh (George MacKay), an old friend who is visiting Munich with British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlin. The middle of the movie is an espionage thriller and that portion of Munich: The Edge of War plays effectively. The filmmakers create an atmosphere of paranoia and manage to suspend the viewer’s knowledge of history. We know the outcome already but the mission itself is engrossing. Paul is the most compelling character in the film. He had been onboard with the Nazis but now realizes what they stand for and Paul’s mission is as much about guilt and personal redemption as it is about stopping Hitler. That makes for potent motivation.
What Doesn’t: The espionage plot of Munich: The Edge of War is thrilling but the rest of it is not. The relationship between Hugh and Paul is not very interesting nor is Hugh’s strained marriage. These men had a falling out due to Paul’s support of Hitler and Nazism but their reunion doesn’t hold much interest. The film is slow to start and it ends in a way that is inconclusive and not very satisfying.Munich: The Edge of War is historical fiction with “fiction” being the key word. Very little about this movie is based on fact. That’s normal in historical storytelling but fictionalization is usually employed to create drama and streamline the complexity of history. Munich: The Edge of War creates drama at the cost of distorting history. The film imagines an attempt to smuggle the Hossbach Memorandum into the hands of the British. That’s a thrilling story but it also completely made up. Imagining Neville Chamberlin signing the Munich Agreement when he knew Hitler’s plans is a misrepresentation of history. World War II has been a source of many great stories and there’s no reason to twist history this way.
DVD extras: On Netflix.
Bottom Line: There is a very good thriller within Munich: The Edge of War. But that movie is buried under some dull domestic drama and questionable manipulations of history.
Episode: #894 (March 13, 2022)