Friday, February 18, 2022

Munich: The Edge of War

In September 1938, British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain along with representatives from other countries went to Munich to negotiate a peace agreement with Adolf Hilter.  As part of this agreement, they conceded part of Czechoslovakia to Germany.  Chamberlain returned to England with agreement in hand claiming victory having secured peace with Germany.  History regards Chamberlain as a naive pacifist who got bamboozled by Hitler, as many people in the British government also regarded Chamberlain at the time.  When war broke out one year later, this lead to him being replaced as Prime Minister by Winston Churchill in May 1940.

Part of my problem with this two-hour Netflix movie is that I was confused by what I was watching.  I thought maybe I was watching a historical reenactment of actual events, but the story is an adaptation of a spy novel, "Munich", by author Robert Harris.  It is about two classmates and friends at Oxford who go on to serve their respective governments in England and Germany.  Paul is part of a plot to overthrow Hitler, and he doesn't want the peace agreement to be signed.  The plan is to arrest Hitler after he aggressively invades Czechoslavakia.  He arranges for his estranged friend, Hugh, to be part of the British delegation to Munich so that he can pass stolen documents to him to dissuade Chamberlain from signing the peace agreement.  The documents outline Germany's plans to invade the rest of Europe.  The conspirators succeed in getting the documents to Chamberlain, but he has no interest in them because he wants to continue the peace process.


The two-hour movie covers such a limited time period that I felt shortchanged.  I wanted to know more about these characters and the events that followed, but the movie ends with Chamberlain's return to Great Britain and the failure of the spy plot.  

However, the high production quality and good acting make this movie worth watching.  Jeremy Irons is delightful as Chamberlain.  George MacKay and Jannis Niewöhner are good, playing their characters as people a little in over their heads.  Hannes Wegener is great as a sadistic SS officer who is a former classmate of Paul's but suspects him of being part of a cabal.

The movie has been called revisionist because the ending portrays Chamberlain as being more clever than he may have actually been.  According to the film, Chamberlain made the peace agreement with Hitler to buy time for England to prepare for war.

Rating:  B+.

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