REVIEW: Robert Harris’ thriller Munich: The Edge of War is adapted into a gripping film.
A triumphant Neville Chamberlain declares, proudly waving a letter from his pacifist German pen pal Adolf.
It’s difficult to overstate the impact of newsreel footage of Winston Churchill’s infamous return from the 1938 Munich Conference.
Every subsequent British leader has had to grapple with these images when faced with the choice of negotiating or confronting a foreign power.
Do they want to be a cigar-chomping Churchill or a paper-waving Chamberlain?
The much-maligned old gent gets an intriguing makeover in this tense, clever, and thoroughly gripping adaptation of Robert Harris’ historical thriller.
Chamberlain, played by Jeremy Irons, is not a fool.
He’s a cunning schemer willing to smear his name in order to buy time to re-arm and prepare his country for an impending war.
The machinations of Chamberlain are seen through the befuddled eyes of George MacKay’s Hugh Legat, one of the PM’s aides.
As they graduate from Oxford University in 1932, stiff-upper-lip Legat discusses politics with his passionate German best pal Paul von Hartmann (an excellent Jannis Niewhner).
Six years later, Western leaders are summoned to Munich for talks with Adolf Hitler (Ulrich Matthes) about a possible invasion of Czechoslovakia, putting their friendship to the test.
The secret service has tasked Legat, unbeknownst to Chamberlain, with collecting stolen Nazi documents from Paul, who is now a disillusioned translator for Hitler.
At the end of the day, we all know how the main story will conclude.
However, as Legat dodges Nazi goons and Paul has chilling close encounters with the Fuhrer, director Christian Schwochow creates some wonderfully tense moments.
Irons gives a convincing, touching, and strangely timely performance as the selfless old strategist, balancing these slightly outlandish genre elements.
Is another Churchill required for Britain, or is it time for a new Chamberlain?