Munich: The Edge of War combines intense emotional conflict, suspenseful espionage to illustrate chaotic beginnings of WWII

Jack Rogula, asst. a&e editor

Sandbags and barbed wire line the streets where market booths once stood. Barrage balloons fly high above gothic cathedrals and ministry buildings. Gas masks are carried in the pockets of every man, woman, and child as they walk to their homes.

This is the London that is presented in Munich: The Edge of War. Directed by Christian Schwochow, the film lays out the appeasement policy that Neville Chamberlain made with Adolf Hitler in 1938 to avoid another world war. Featuring a star-studded cast with the likes of George MacKay (1917) and Jeremy Irons, Munich: The Edge of War proves itself through thrilling sequences and excellent performances.

The film opens in 1932 with Hugh Legat (George MacKay) and Paul Von Hartmann (Jannis Niewöhner), two friends celebrating their graduation from Oxford University. Hartmann is swept up in the celebration, as well as the idea of a “New Germany” being birthed at the time. Jumping to six years later in 1938, the film shows Legat as secretary to the British Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain (Jeremy Irons). Chamberlain yearns to keep peace with Germany, despite Adolf Hitler (Ulrich Matthes) insisting on the German acquisition of the Sudetenland from Czechoslovakia.

To halt the mobilization of Germany into the territory, Chamberlain calls for a conference in Munich, for the nations of France, Italy, Germany, and Great Britain to negotiate terms of occupation. Hartmann, now in a secret resistance group against Hitler, asks for Legat to accompany Chamberlain to Munich in order to transfer a secret document, which illustrates Nazi Germany’s true plan of conquest across Europe. In a hostile country on the brink of war, Legat struggles to trust even his closest acquaintances while attempting to prevent the largest conflict in history.

Incredible performances given by all of the cast truly immerse the audience into the film, but Jeremy Irons stands out as a perfect fit in the role of Neville Chamberlain, giving a breathtaking performance as the late Prime Minister. The speeches he re-enacts seem as though they are truly being made by Chamberlain himself, and the subtle, wise anecdotes that Irons confidently gives to other government officials throughout the film emulate the mannerisms of Chamberlain to a tee.  The admirable performance is noteworthy not only for the standalone immersion it gives the audience, but for the dynamic it creates between the stoic and well-spoken Chamberlain against the brash, angry manner of Hitler, portrayed masterfully by Matthes.

Despite the outcome of the film being no surprise, having been based on the actual events which lead to World War II, the tension is always kept high, which makes the audience second guess themselves repeatedly throughout. Moments with direct correlation to the eventual beginning of the Second World War create a feeling of uneasiness when seen unfolding before your very eyes. Decisions which could have altered the course of history are agonizingly tense and frustrating to watch play out.

For history buffs and film enjoyers alike, Munich: The Edge of War creates a tense and foreboding atmosphere that sucks the audience in until the credits begin to roll. Welcoming in the cinematic new year of 2022 with grandeur, Munich: The Edge of War is available to stream now on Netflix.