The new Netflix original Munich – The Edge of War lights up the screen with scattered brilliance. Nail-biting scenes of spies sneaking right under Adolf Hitler’s nose keep the audience enthralled. These standout moments don’t make it a perfect movie, but they make it worth the watch.
In 1938, two friends from college, Hugh Legat (George MacKay) and Paul von Hartmann (Jannis Niewöhner), find themselves on opposite sides of World War II as it’s about to break out. As the prime minister of the United Kingdom, Neville Chamberlain (Jeremy Irons), believes peace is still within reach and refuses to take preemptive action against Hitler, Hugh contacts Paul to work together to convince Chamberlain to take action.
The film, released on Jan. 21, is an intriguing work of historical fiction. It represents the events of World War II happening in the background while crafting fictitious storylines and the relationship between Paul and Hugh. The pair’s friendship at the center holds the potential for audience members to follow its emotional twists and turns.
But, the movie fails to flesh out the details of Hugh and Paul’s relationship, and there’s no friendship for viewers to latch onto while they’re watching. The film doesn’t provide enough background to make the pair’s supposed close friendship believable. At the film’s center, it is a story about two friends reconnecting, but Paul and Hugh don’t even seem to like each other. The few moments they share on screen are spent arguing.
Despite the failed connection between the leading characters, Niewöhner brings the film to life. Though Hugh appears as the main character, Niewöhner goes above and beyond as Paul, becoming a captivating spy figure. Niewöhner sells every scene, painting a powerful picture of a man struggling to save his country from fascists. Even his salutes look empty, like he can barely summon the strength to fake his support of the dictator.
The message of Munich – The Edge of War feels like it’s wandering throughout the film, as characters falter morally, unable to commit to their high-stakes choices. Paul is a man desperate to save his country, but later in the movie, he makes an active choice to do the opposite. It’s disappointing character regression that makes both the flow of the movie and Paul’s character development suffer as a result.
Paul’s character regression reflects the historical shift as the war quickly became a desperate attempt to defeat Germany. The movie is shackled to a part of history well recorded in academia, literature, and film.
Ultimately, Munich – the Edge of War is a film that’s trying to ask big questions about the survival of a friendship and what it means to do the right thing, but it’s bogged down by its attempt to be a period piece. Despite a sole redeeming character in the reliably fascinating spy role, the film pales in comparison to the abundance of other World War II films out there.
Featured Image Courtesy of Netflix