There are now so many movies about WWII that a professor could make an entire college-level course exclusively about them. So odds are that means most of the movies about that dark era in world history will be quite underwhelming. One of those unironically is a Netflix release that hardly anyone is aware exists, nor do they have a reason to know it exists. Munich: The Edge of War takes advantage of its setting for the sake of making a political thriller that the filmmakers hope will be seen as morally important enough to introduce younger men to the more difficult issues about the war. Though any teenage boys watching this will more likely be bored while the older men will just want to shut it off to watch something more fast-paced and original.
For this being a WWII movie, there’s a shockingly absent representation of the Jewish community, any Jewish characters are present in exactly one scene, and they don’t even get a chance to speak. For a more complete, balanced portrayal of the time, this film should have included the actual practices of Judaism to give greater context behind Hitler’s actions. (In fact, any people of color in this movie are given very minimal speaking roles.) There are enough WWII movies out there, what more does this have to contribute besides more White men doing White man stuff? If more minority groups were given greater representation here, then it would have provided a decent distraction from the acting, which is bad all around throughout the entire cast. The guy playing Hitler is particularly miscast, for he doesn’t look, sound, or act like him.
Due to the issues in the casting, coupled with the issues in the characterizations, the two men the script focuses on are very egocentric, and the Prime Minister always has a fat cigar to further emphasize his grand pride. That inability to empathize with anybody consequently causes uneven directing, case in point: a heavily dramatic scene cuts to a scene out on the streets of Berlin, and the image used as the segue into that new scene is of a pigeon, which just looks unintentionally funny. Like really, the pacing is all off in ways similar to that, so of course, there’s no tonal consistency in the editing, and that absence of fluidity in the frame makes it impossible to keep track of who’s who. The script jumps around randomly in time, which hinders the process of getting to know the characters. There is such a nauseating, abrupt sense of coverage of every scene, only allowing a millisecond to establish important visual details, and in turn, making this supposedly fast-paced thriller feel even slower.
To be fair though, this movie makes a surprising case for why the people back then would want to vote for Hitler, because they were too scared of change and thought Germany was the proudest nation on Earth. Yet these two main guys need to convince the Prime Minister that Hitler’s a monster, which seems like a very real conflict that spies and politicians would have had with one another. In that process, the tension never stops, and the conflict never wavers. There are only three instances when the camera is stationary, and those are the only times when nobody feels pressed for time.
The genius ideas addressed could have delved so much deeper, but instead just settles for doing exactly what every other political war thriller has ever done and ever will do- no risks whatsoever are taken, even settling for historical inaccuracies to try and make the audience care more. Apparently, Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain’s personality isn’t at all like how he’s depicted here- he wasn’t really anywhere near this heroic. Nothing new is ever learned about Hitler either… even Inglourious Basterds was more educational! Well hey, that movie didn’t get Hitler’s death right, but that at least didn’t end with a Deus ex machina, unlike Munich: The Edge of War. So, good luck trying to remember this movie a week after watching it, or even be able to distinguish it from every other wartime thriller.
If there’s anything that seems easily memorable in the long run here, it would be the message. This adaptation of Robert Harris’s novel says that there are times when one’s family must take a backseat, and the main character is a living example of that. There are plenty of spectacles that summarize what the film is all about neatly, such as the numerous times the actors are silhouetted against the windows. That also includes the deflated blimp over a building at the start of the film to express its big idea, that being the efforts of Germany getting itself off the ground because none of the surrounding countries will do it for them. Yet the most impactful part of all is when a frightened little kid is shown wearing a gas mask in his own home. Then despite all these bleak glances into the time and place, the finale leaves room for a hopeful note to end on.
But what good is a hopeful ending if you can’t even remember it? It would have made for a powerful game-changer that would have helped a lot of people suffering from PTSD to the extent what Schindler’s List did nearly thirty years ago. Instead, Munich: The Edge of War is just another one of those passionless espionage films that you get through on your watchlist simply because you’re bored and have nothing better to do, and then check it off to get to the next film that’s nearly exactly like it. Is that really how you want to spend your free time? Why not watch a movie that you know for sure will leave an impact on you? You know, something like Steven Spielberg’s monumental character study about the Holocaust survivors?
If there is a specific movie you’d like to see graded, or if you are interested in guest blogging for my site, please email me at Trevor@TrevorsViewOnHollywood.com for your recommendations.
Have a great weekend, and happy watching!