Munich: The Edge of War

By Joanna Langfield

This historically based drama fits nicely on a home screen, compelling enough to heat up a cold winter’s night.

Based on Robert Harris’s bestselling novel, this is the story of two young men who find themselves with what they feel is an urgent opportunity to stop World War 2 before it overtakes Europe. Hugh and Paul, former Oxford classmates, are now very much on the inside of the British and German governments. It is November, 1938 and Hitler and Chamberlin are about to sign an agreement, as the German is about to invade Czechoslovakia. Neville Chamberlin, essentially, wants to keep out of it, eager to make a deal that, at the very least will buy him and his allies time to prepare for a war that seems inevitable. But, when Paul is handed some classified information, detailing Hitler’s impatient master plan, he orchestrates a diplomatic spy mission to try and convince the British leader not to assuage the German, but to take more aggressive action now.

Taken from real events, Harris and now filmmaker Christian Schwochow redirect a lot of the storytelling towards the two young men, their personal relationships and their ambitions. Some of that is done through flashbacks, which feel a bit clunky and somewhat confusing. Still, younger viewers might appreciate that focus. They may not be as keen to see how the older and maybe wiser political figures deal with them. 

What elevates just about everything are the universally impressive performances, led by a truly fine George MacKay, Liv Lisa Fries and Jannis Niewohner. Jeremy Irons brings just the right amount of flippancy to the role of Chamberlin, a leader who we find here, might have actually been savvier than history has deemed him.