Munich: The Edge of War


Neville Chamberlain hopes for peace in our time.

(2021) Historical Drama (Netflix) George MacKay, Jeremy Irons, Jessica Brown Findlay, Jannis Niewöhner, Liv Lisa Fries, Raphael Sowole, Sandra Hüller, August Diehl, Ulrich Matthes, Richard Dillane, Alex Jennings, Mark Lewis Jones, Hannes Wegener, Aidan Hennessey, Nicholas Farrell, Rainer Sellien, Abigail Cruttenden, Helen Clyro, Nicholas Shaw, Robert Bathurst, Anjli Mohindra. Directed by Christian Schwochow

 

Students of history will remember the image of a jubilant British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain waving a sheaf of papers in his hand upon his return from the Munich Conference with Adolph Hitler in 1938, exclaiming “I bring you peace in our time,” after getting the German Chancellor to agree not to invade the Sudetenland of Czechoslovakia by essentially handing over the territory to him. The policy of appeasement in order to provide “peace at any price” turned out to be tragically wrong, and Chamberlain was excoriated for it by contemporaries, but also by history.

This film, based on a historical novel by Robert Harris, tries to shed a different light on the outcome of the Conference. It opens with Oxford students George Legat (MacKay), Paul von Hartmann (Niewöhner) and Paul’s girlfriend Lenya (Fries) celebrating their graduation. Von Hartmann is particularly ecstatic, knowing he is going home to what he terms a “new Germany,” following the triumph of the Nazi party, taking a country bled dry by World War I and the onerous terms of surrender that was placed upon it. Six years later, Paul is a diplomat in Germany who’s attitude to the Nazi party has taken a serious about-face. Meanwhile, George is now married to Pamela (Findlay) and working as a private secretary to Prime Minister Chamberlain (Irons).

Chamberlain is frustrated at Hitler’s (Matthes) saber-rattling and refusal to negotiate. Europe stands on the precipice of another ruinous war, and nobody has forgotten how long it took to recover from the last one – and in fact, it could be argued that they were still recovering. So Chamberlain puts together a conference in Munich to try and hammer out an agreement that would prevent war. Legat, who speaks fluent German, is brought along to translate. MI-6 also sees an opportunity for Legat to perhaps ferret out some intelligence about Hitler’s plans.

Boy, does he. Paul’s current lover Helen (Hüller) has come into possession of a typed-out document that outlines Hitler’s plans to plunge Europe into a massive war, with Germany eating up territory, shipping undesirables East to labor camps, and resettling their land with good Aryan stock. Paul manages to get George’s attention and George arranges a hasty meeting with Chamberlain, but one of Hitler’s bodyguards (Diehl) who also happens to be an old friend of Paul’s, is keeping a watchful eye on him.

The movie tends to emphasize the espionage aspect of the younger, completely fictional characters, ignoring the opportunity to give us some insight into Chamberlain and the other historical characters in the movie, whose actions in Munich would have such enormous repercussions. To be honest, the espionage content is far less interesting.

Irons portrays Chamberlain as a man absolutely certain that he is right and working for the right end. In an odd aside, the movie seems to indicate that Chamberlain’s actions, far from merely giving Hitler the green light to do what he wished, actually gave the Allies needed time to prepare for the war, which is a bit of an odd way of looking at it.

We never really get a sense of the tension of living in a police state and while the cinematography is fairly nice (particularly in the opening sequence), the score is a bit bombastic and intrusive. Also, the opening and closing credits are done in kind of a weird Sixties Rankin-Bass kind of style which doesn’t suit the film at all.

The trouble with historical dramas is that we generally know how the movie is going to turn out. Nobody needed a spoiler alert to know that the Titanic was going to sink. That doesn’t mean that there isn’t something to see here, particularly on the occasions when the film looks more closely at Chamberlain and what drove him to the decisions he made. I wish they would have concentrated more on that and jettisoned the ill-advised and not-very-well-executed thriller material.

REASONS TO SEE: There are certainly some modern parallels to the return of authoritarianism.
REASONS TO AVOID: Focuses far too much on the espionage thriller aspect rather than on the historical drama, which is much more fascinating.
FAMILY VALUES: There is some profanity, brief violence, period smoking and adult themes.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Although the lead characters of von Hartmann and Legat are fictional, they are based on real people; the document that von Hartmann risked so much to smuggle to Chamberlain actually existed, although there is no evidence that Chamberlain ever actually saw it.
BEYOND THE THEATERS: Netflix
CRITICAL MASS: As of 2/8/22: Rotten Tomatoes: 86% positive reviews; Metacritic: 53/100.
COMPARISON SHOPPING: Valkyrie
FINAL RATING: 6/10
NEXT:
American Gadfly

New Releases for the Week of December 3, 2021


WOLF

(Focus) George MacKay, Lily-Rose Depp, Paddy Considine, Eileen Walsh, Senan Jennings, Darragh Shannon, Lola Petticrew. Directed by Jared Bush and Nathalie Biancheri

A man who believes he is a wolf trapped in a human body is eventually committed to a clinic that specializes in those types of disorder. He undergoes increasingly aggressive forms of therapy until he meets a woman who believes she’s a wildcat. As the two fall in love, he must choose between true love and his true self.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website

Genre: Mystery
Now Playing: AMC Altamonte Mall, AMC Disney Springs, Regal Waterford Lakes
Rating: R (for some abusive behavior, sexuality, nudity and language)

Akhanda

(Radha Krishna) Nandamuri Balakrishna, Pragya Jaiswal, Jagapathi Babu, Meka Srikanth. A fierce devotee of Lord Shiva must stand against the unrighteous.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website

Genre: Action
Now Playing: Cinemark Orlando, Regal Pavilion Port Orange, Regal Winter Park Village
Rating: NR

Bergman Island

(IFC) Mia Wasikowska, Tim Roth, Vicki Krieps, Anders Danielsen Lie. Two American filmmakers who also are a romantic couple, decide to summer on Farö Island (the place where legendary director Ingmar Bergman lived and shot many of his most celebrated films) in order to find inspiration for their own endeavors, but the magic of the island begins to drive a wedge between the two.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website

Genre: Drama
Now Playing: Cinematique Daytona
Rating: R (for some sexual content, nudity and language)

C’mon C’mon

(A24) Joaquin Phoenix, Gaby Hoffman, Woody Norman, Scoot McNairy. A radio journalist is thrown together unexpectedly with his young nephew during a cross-country road trip, creating a tenuous but transformational relationship between the two.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website

Genre: Drama
Now Playing: Cinemark Orlando, Enzian, Regal Waterford Lakes
Rating: R (for language)

Castle Falls

(Shout!) Dolph Lundgren, Scott Adkins, Kevin Wayne, Jim E. Chandler. A derelict hospital is about to be demolished but braving the dynamite are three desperate men – two rival gang leaders and a hospital janitor, looking for a cache of stolen money hidden in the walls. They have exactly 90 minutes to find the loot and get out – or be blown up with the rest of the building.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website

Genre: Action
Now Playing: Studio Movie Grille Sunset Walk
Rating: NR

Encounter

(Amazon) Riz Ahmed, Octavia Spencer, Janina Gavankar, Lucian-River Chauhan. A decorated Marine takes his two young sons on a journey to evade a mysterious threat. As the trip grows increasingly dangerous, the two boys will have to grow up much sooner than they might have otherwise.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website

Genre: Science Fiction
Now Playing: CMX Daytona
Rating: R (for language and some violence)

The End of Us

(Saban) Ben Coleman, Ali Vingiano, Derrick Joseph DeBrasis, Gadiel Del Orbe. A couple on the verge of breaking up is forced to continue living together during the COVID lockdown. Petty squabbles between the two – one career-driven, the other a slacker – lead to self-evaluations that may change them and doom their relationship.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website

Genre: Dramedy
Now Playing: Studio Movie Grille Sunset Walk
Rating: R (for language and sexual references)

Home

(Gravitas) Jake McLaughlin, Kathy Bates, Aisling Franciosi, Lil Rel Howery. A man returns to his small town after 20 years in prison to find that forgiveness is in short supply. He is, however, willing to accept the repercussions of his past deeds if it can lead to a better future.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website

Genre: Drama
Now Playing: CMX Grand
Rating: NR

Last Shoot Out

(Lionsgate) Cam Gigandet, Bruce Dern, Brock Harris, Skylar White. When a frontier wife flees her husband after discovering he had her father killed, she is rescued by a gunman who protects her from the wrath of her husband’s wealthy – and well-armed – family.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website

Genre: Western
Now Playing: CMX Grand
Rating: PG-13 (for violence and bloody images)

Marakkar: Lion of the Arabian Sea

(Phars) Mohanial, Sunil Shetty, Arjun Sarja, Manju Warrier. An Indian hero fights the invading Portuguese.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website

Genre: Action
Now Playing: Amstar Lake Mary, Cinemark Orlando
Rating: NR

Silent Night

(RJLE) Keira Knightley, Matthew Goode, Annabelle Wallis, Lucy Punch. A couple and their son entertain family and friends for an wonderful Christmas dinner in an idyllic country cottage in England. The only thing that keeps it from being perfect: the world is about to end.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website

Genre: Dramedy
Now Playing: Fashion Square Premiere
Rating: R (for language and violence)

The Souvenir: Part II

(A24) Honor Swinton Byrne, Jaygann Ayeh, Tilda Swinton, Richard Ayoade. A young film student who has escaped from an abusive relationship with an older man, tries to untangle her feelings by throwing herself into her graduate project, but soon finds trouble separating reality from fiction.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website

Genre: Drama
Now Playing: Cinematique Daytona
Rating: R (for some strong sexuality, and language)

Sword Art Online: Progressive – Aria of a Starless Night

(Aniplex USA) Starring the voices of Yoshitsugu Matsuoka, Inori Minase, Bryce Papenbrook, Haruka Tomatsu. A newbie gamer enters the deadly world of Aincrad discovers that she must beat all 100 levels of the game in order to escape back to reality, but dying in the game also means dying in the real world.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website

Genre: Animé
Now Playing: AMC Altamonte Mall, AMC Avenue 16, AMC Disney Springs, Amstar Lake Mary, Cinemark Lakeland Square, Cinemark Orlando, CMX Daytona, Regal Eagle Ridge Mall, Regal Waterford Lakes, Regal Winter Park Village
Rating: R (for language and violence)

True to the Game 3

(Faith Media) Erica Peeples, Columbus Short, Starletta DuPois, Omar Gooding. A woman is given 72 hours to return home to let her friends know her plans, before she starts a new life with the handsome, mysterious outlaw that she loves.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website

Genre: Romance
Now Playing: AMC Altamonte Mall, AMC Disney Springs, Cinemark Orlando, CMX Merritt Square, Fashion Square Premiere
Rating: R (for violence and pervasive language)

Twas the Night

(Vertical) Nicole Pringle, David Steven Perez, Paul Van Scott, Lisa Panagopoulos. An engaged couple are hosting their future in-laws for the holidays, and they want everything to be just right. That’s even harder to do, when you’re trying to hide a body at the same time.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website

Genre: Holiday Comedy
Now Playing: Studio Movie Grille Sunset Walk
Rating: NR

COMING TO VIRTUAL CINEMA/VOD:

A Clusterfunke Christmas (Saturday)
Benedetta
Cobalt Blue
Deadlock
Diary of a Wimpy Kid
Fatal Distraction
(Tuesday)
The Forever Prisoner
(Monday)
The Great Balloon Bomb Invasion
(Thursday)
Listening to Kenny G
(Thursday)
Love and Fury
Missing and Alone
Mixtape
Red Stone
The Reenactment
(Tuesday)
Single All the Way
(Thursday)
The Slow Hustle
(Tuesday)
This Game’s Called Murder
The Wishing Tree
(Tuesday)

SCHEDULED FOR REVIEW:

Encounter
The Great Balloon Bomb Invasion
Mixtape
The Wishing Tree
Wolf

True History of the Kelly Gang


Ned Kelly, Australian icon.

2019) Historical Drama (IFCGeorge MacKay, Russell Crowe, Essie Davis, Nicholas Hoult, Charlie Hunnam, Earl Cave, Josephine Blazier, Thomasin McKenzie, Marlon Williams, Orlando Schwerdt, Ben Corbett, John Murray, Tilly Lawless, Ross Knight, Louis Hewson, Jillian Nguyen, Paul Rochfort, Andrew Wright, Will McNeill, Danzal Baker, Markella Kavenagh. Directed by Justin Kurzel

 

Ned Kelly is couldn’t be more Australian if he were a kangaroo singing “Waltzing Matilda.” He is the ultimate anti-hero; a horse thief, cattle rustler and murderer who became a symbol of the independent spirit of Australia by standing up against the colonial police who oppressed him. While there are some Aussies who see him as a hardened criminal who got what he deserved, others see him as a heroic martyr.

Young Ned (Schwerdt) lives in the wilds of Victoria in the mid-19th century with his feckless alcoholic Pa (Corbett) and his angry, bitter Ma Ellen Kelly (Davis) who is having sex with Inspector O’Neil (Hunnam) of the Victoria police who is at the same time, harassing Ned’s Dad. When Ned is given an opportunity to go to boarding school, the offer gets his mother’s Irish up and she turns down the offer flat, instead sending young Ned out with bushranger (outlaw) Harry Power (Crowe), who teaches Ned the ways of the bush.

Now grown up, Ned (MacKay) has become a bushranger in his own right. Yet another policeman, Constable Fitzpatrick (Hoult) has taken a liking to Ned’s comely sister Kate (Blazier). However, when Fitzpatrick takes liberties and sneers at Ellen, Ned shoots the Constable in the wrist and is forced to flee into the bush.

There, the legend of Ned Kelly is born and backed by his own gang that slowly grows into an army, he robs banks and shoots coppers whenever the chance arises. However, as corrupt as the police are, they still are better armed and even Ned’s homemade armor won’t save him from falling in a bloody shootout at Glenrowan and a final date with the gallows – cementing his place as a legend.

Giving lie to the title, the opening credits proclaim that “nothing you see here is true.” The connecting tissue of the movie is Ned, awaiting execution in the Old Melbourne Gaol, writing a letter to his daughter, telling her the truth of his life. As he pens the words “May I burn in Hell if I speak false,” screams of torment can be heard in the background. The film is full of clever little touches like that.

The movie is based on the 2000 Man Booker-award winning novel by Peter Carey, and is indeed a fictionalized account of the notorious outlaw, apropos of the title. While the events are essentially true to history, there are a lot of inventions here; I will admit that I’m not fully versed in Australian history, but I didn’t find any references to the Kelly gang wearing women’s dresses during the course of their crimes, as depicted here (Ned’s father is also depicted as a cross-dresser). There is also an encounter between Ned and Fitzpatrick that has homoerotic connotations and there’s no evidence that Kelly swung in that direction, so to speak. Kelly is also depicted as clean-shaven whereas photos of him clearly show a bushy beard, but Mackay was also filming 1917 around that time and may not have had the luxury of growing a beard for this film.

There is also some artistic license; rather than using period music, Kurzel blasts punk rock tracks to shock the audience out of complacency and uses strobe lights in a couple of different places including the climactic gun battle which is well-staged, incidentally. However, there are times that I get the sense that Kurzel is showing off as a director and it does take away focus from his film.

However, Kurzel and his cinematographer Ari Wegner do a magnificent job of capturing the immensity of the Australian bush; the bleakness of the impoverished Kelly home and the terrifying Glenrowan gun battle, in which bullets and beams of light pepper the shed. Kurzel has been watching a few Baz Luhrmann films of late, I suspect.

Kurzel has a good cast, with powerful performances by MacKay who is poised for stardom with this and 1917 under his belt, Davis who was captivating in The Nightingale and Crowe in a supporting role, showing the presence and chops that made him a star in the first place.

The script does a lot to humanize Kelly, making him a victim of poverty and of police prejudices against Irish convicts who were sent to the penal colony. He is no saint, but he really had no other options at his disposal other than to turn to a life of crime; essentially, he was just fulfilling expectations. If you’re looking for, as the title suggests, the true story of Ned Kelly and his gang, you have the wrong movie but there is insight to be had here. The true history is a tragedy, as it turns out.

REASONS TO SEE: Has a mythological feel to it, even as the filmmakers seek to humanize Kelly. Needs to be seen on the big screen.
REASONS TO AVOID: Gets a little too artsy for its own good.
FAMILY VALUES: There Is a lot of violence, much of it bloody and graphic; there is also plenty of profanity, some brief nudity and sexuality.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Earl Cave, who played Ned’s brother Dan, is the son of Australian rock legend Nick Cave who grew up less than 10 km from where Kelly’s last shootout with the police took place in Glenrowan.
BEYOND THE THEATERS: Amazon, AppleTV, Microsoft, Vudu
CRITICAL MASS: As of 4/26/20: Rotten Tomatoes: 77% positive reviews, Metacritic: 74/100
COMPARISON SHOPPING: Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
FINAL RATING: 7/10
NEXT:
Mary Queen of Scots

Captain Fantastic


Viggo Mortensen points out from which direction the Orc hordes are charging.

Viggo Mortensen points out from which direction the Orc hordes are charging.

(2016) Drama (Bleecker Street) Viggo Mortensen, George MacKay, Samantha Isler, Annalise Basso, Nicholas Hamilton, Shree Crooks, Charlie Shotwell, Trin Miller, Kathryn Hahn, Steve Zahn, Frank Langella, Ann Dowd, Elijah Stevenson, Teddy Van Ee, Erin Moriarty, Missi Pyle, Gallen Osier, Rex Young, Thomas Brophy, Mike Miller, Hannah Horton. Directed by Matt Ross

 

This is not a world conducive to raising kids. We are forced to work jobs that take ever-increasing amounts of our time, forcing us to leave them at day care, in schools where getting an education is an uphill battle and with diversions and distractions guaranteed to change our kids from thoughtful, caring people into automatons parroting whatever the cool kids are saying and preferring to do things that require no thought at all.

Ben (Mortensen) has decided to chuck all of that aside. Something of a latter day hippie tilting at the same windmills of Noam Chomsky and Norman Mailer did, he has removed his family – his wife and six kids – to the woods of the Pacific Northwest. There, they live off the grid; killing and growing their own food, making whatever it is they need, selling their crafts for the little money they do require and Ben both schooling and training the kids not only how to live off the land but to defend themselves from those who would take them off of it by force.

Ben has been doing this alone since his wife Leslie (Miller) has been hospitalized but when his worst fears come to pass and she dies, the entire family is devastated. Ben, a believer in transparency (when it suits him), tells his children in the bluntest terms possible. This of course precipitates a storm of emotion.

Nothing, however, when compared to what comes out of Jack (Langella), Leslie’s bereaved father who blames Ben and his alternative lifestyle for his daughter’s demise and forbids him and his children from attending her funeral. This, of course, inspires them all to pile into the family school bus and head to the services. Along the road, they’ll visit Ben’s sister Harper (Hahn) and her husband Dave (Zahn) who are far more in the normal meter with two sons of their own and predictably, things don’t go particularly well. When the confrontation comes, it will expose some raw wounds in what appeared to be a tight-knit family and call into question Ben’s methods and dearly-held philosophies.

Much of how you’re going to take in this film is going to depend on your attitudes towards the counterculture, both then and now. Those who look at the movement and find it to be self-righteous and arrogant will see those things in Ben; others who look back at that and see commitment and courage will see that in Ben. Curiously, there’s no drug use going on here, so far as I can tell. However, those who think that white rich people are getting the short end of the stick are likely to find this movie to be somewhat offensive.

Mortensen will probably always be Aragorn in my book; since he exploded in the public perception in Peter Jackson’s Middle Earth trilogy, he has stayed away largely from mainstream movies and typical roles. In some ways, Ben is as close to Viggo as we’re ever likely to see. Mortensen is a well-known iconoclast and besides being an incredibly handsome dude, has acting chops guys as good looking as he can only dream about. He is meant to carry the movie and he does.

The kids playing his kids managed not to get on my nerves, quite a feat when you get six child actors together for any reason. Occasionally I’d see a little bit of annoying little brat going on but for the most part the kids are interesting, thoughtful and bright. Ben’s oldest Bo (MacKay) has been accepted at some of the most prestigious universities in the country which isn’t the kind of thing that impresses his father, who disdains anything that has anything to do with the establishment, including education.

The first third of the movie has some beautiful landscapes from Washington State, and the cinematography is correspondingly lush. The middle third is essentially a road movie, largely taking place in deserts and plains and is as different a road movie as you’re likely to see. We get some glimpses of hypocrisy cracking through Ben’s veneer of moral rightness, as well as some of the conflicts going on within the family. In some ways, this is the most interesting part of the picture.

The final third is basically Ben and the kids coming to terms with the fall-out of Ben’s home schooling and attitudes towards mainstream life. There should be catharsis here (and the filmmakers sorely wants there to be) but the ending is such a letdown that any kind of catharsis just gets lost in the backwash. The ending feels arbitrary and inorganic and doesn’t seem consistent with what I thought the movie was trying to get across. Now, I might have misconstrued the filmmakers’ intentions and that’s okay, but quite frankly my wife and I looked at each other after the final credits started rolling and said in almost perfect unison “Really?” You don’t want to leave a movie with that kind of feeling.

Ross is best known as an actor in HBO’s hit comedy Silicon Valley turns out to be a fairly promising director. The timing here for the comedic parts are right on and the drama parts aren’t especially overbearing. While he could have used a better ending, he certainly has plenty to build on for a future career behind the camera if that’s the path he wants to take.

Even given all that, this is still an amazing, thought-provoking movie with one of the most charismatic actors in the business at the top of his form. In a summer full of disappointing blockbusters and run-of-the-mill sequels, this is a literal breath of fresh air.

REASONS TO GO: Mortensen is a powerfully charismatic actor. The film depicts an interesting conflict between alternative ideas and mainstream reality. It’s not your ordinary road movie.
REASONS TO STAY: The ending was a bit of a letdown.
FAMILY VALUES: There’s some profanity and a brief scene of graphic nudity (Viggo Mortensen fans, rejoice!).
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: The group of children cast in the film came to call Mortensen “Summer Dad” throughout the shoot during the summer of 2015.
CRITICAL MASS: As of 7/27/16: Rotten Tomatoes: 77% positive reviews. Metacritic: 72/100.
COMPARISON SHOPPING: The Automatic Hate
FINAL RATING: 8/10
NEXT: Life, Animated