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Munich — The Edge of War ★ ★ ★ ★

Was there ever a bad movie about the political turbulence that preceded World War II? I can’t think of one. Munich — The Edge of War is partly a political drama and partly a spy drama. In this version, Neville Chamberlain is still Prime Minister, and the story is divided between London, Berlin, and Munich.

The political intrigue alone, historically accurate, would carry this movie: What was Hitler’s intent with Sudetenland? What motivated Chamberlain’s efforts to avoid war at almost any cost? It’s the fictional espionage plot, though, that makes this such a brilliant story. Two young men who were Oxford classmates, one German, the other British, are in way over their heads in a German plot to arrest and remove Hitler. The British character is Chamberlain’s private secretary. The German character works as a translator in the foreign office in Berlin. Neither of them ever gets a moment of relief. The fear and menace grows and never lets up. Hitler is a relatively minor character, but Ulrich Matthes plays him like a character in a horror film.

This film reminds us just how important it is, after 75 years, to continue to grapple with the history of World War II. Today Russia may be on the edge of invading Ukraine. Only a year has passed since the United States removed a madman from the White House, who, had he remained in office, would have continued to work with Russia to destabilize Europe.

Just as a period piece, the film is elegant — old cars, old London, old Berlin, trains, typewriters, radios, cabarets.

Munich — The Edge of War can be streamed on Netflix.

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