EM – Munich: On the Edge of War (2021) – Film Review

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Directed by Christian Schwochow.
With George MacKay, Jannis Niewöhner, Jessica Brown Findlay, Jeremy Irons, Sandra Hüller, Martin Wuttke, Alex Jennings, Liv Lisa Fries, August Diehl and Robert Bathurst.

War in Europe is imminent, Munich presents one last chance to stop Hitler, and two friends hold that hope in their hands. Munich: The Edge of War is about sides working together, overcoming cultural differences and saving each other from a second world war.

This pre-war pot boiler penned by Robert Harris moves at quite some speed. Through a combination of flashbacks, relationships are quickly defined, six years pass and the audience is thrown back in time to 1938. Europe stands on the brink of war against Germany as Hitler pushes to retake land by threatening to invade Czechoslovakia.

Director Christian Schwochow keeps his camera constantly moving to capture even the quietest Moments to keep momentum and increase the tension. George MacKay and Jannis Niewohner outline a conflict-ridden friendship of political opposites in youth, which ultimately turns to reconciliation and partnership. Jeremy Irons offers a reliable role as Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, while strong support comes from a cross section of European character actors.

Chief among them is Liv Lisa Fries, who plays the reactionary Lenya, fleeting love interest and victim of this Nazi world order. She is free-spirited, open-minded, and represents an optimism that soon proves short-lived. Elsewhere, Ulrich Mattes breathes life into Adolf Hitler and manages to avoid caricature while instilling a degree of fanaticism in him.

Unfortunately, Jessica Brown finds Finlay less busy as her role is little more than a cameo Appears as the wife of George MacKay’s Hugh Legate. It’s a thankless part with minimal screentime that gives the actor little to do. Either he looks upset when he leaves or overjoyed when he returns, it feels like an afterthought thrown in for plot purposes.

Both London, Munich and Berlin are production-wise recreated in their former glory, which gives this film a certain authenticity. Subtle references to the atrocities of war are hinted at on screen as Germany slowly succumbs to Nazi rule. Jewish citizens are singled out and humiliated by Hitler’s SS, Jannis Niewohner’s Paul van Hartman feels friendships erode as loyalties shift.

Munich: The Edge of War manages to feel like something of substance, thanks in part to these details who recognize this dark time in history. This is never meant to be “The Boys from Brazil” or “Schindler’s List” but focuses on being a good thriller. That the audience knows the ending is academic, as it’s more about the journey taken than the destination achieved. A fact that shouldn’t detract from the sophisticated wartime espionage that this Netflix effort can deliver.

Some companion tracks worth considering include The Imitation Game, Atonement, and Downfall, if only to provide a cinematic perspective. With their different tonal shifts, ingeniously crafted character studies, and different approaches to this piece of history, they would be worthy additions to any watch list.

Filed Under: Martin Carr, Movies, Reviews Tagged With: Alex Jennings, August Diehl, Christian Schwochow, George MacKay , Jannis Niewöhner, Jeremy Irons, Jessica Brown Findlay, Liv Lisa Fries, Martin Wuttke, Munich – The Edge of War, netflix, Robert Bathurst, Sandra Hull

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