A review of the new film “Munich: The Edge Of War”

Before I saw this film, I had read the novel by Robert Harris on which it is based [for review click here] and I had read (twice) a detailed examination of the Munich Agreement of September 1938 by Robert Kee [for review click here], so I was very familiar with the subject material. Nevertheless, I found it an entertainingly enough film which is very faithful to the novel (Harris was an executive producer) and near enough to the actual history. 

It posits a scenario in which British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain – an excellent performance by Jeremy Irons – might have been persuaded not to sign the Munich document through the concerted actions of two one-time university friends: Hugh Legat (George MacKay), a member of the British Diplomatic Service, and Paul von Hartmann (Jannis Niewöhner), an official in the German Foreign Ministry.

It looks as if the film is pitched as much to the German/Austrian market as that of Britain & the USA, since this is an Anglo-German production in which all the German characters are played by German actors who actually speak German (so lots of sub-titles) and shooting was in Germany (Munich & Potsdam) as well as Britain (Liverpool).

This competent work has two flaws, one general to much of Harris’s work and one particular to this film. The general problem is that, in most of the historical novels by Harris, we know how it all ends so there is no real sense of excitement (the exception was “Fatherland” ). 

The particular objection is the statement at the end: “The extra time bought by the Munich Agreement enabled Britain and her Allies to prepare for war and ultimately led to Germany’s defeat”.

As Kee writes: “The argument often subsequently put forward in justification for Munich, to the effect that it gained time, was not immediately widely used and only really began to take shape retrospectively after Hitler’s entry into Prague and the eventual outbreak of war itself”.

If Munich gave Britain and France extra time to prepare for war, why was the Nazi blitzkrieg of 1940 so outstandingly successful?


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