Churchill (M)

In a Word: Flat

Churchill  

MOMENT OF DECISION: Brian Cox stars as the British PM in the film Churchill.

 

"This is a story of courage in the midst of personal despair, of perseverance when you are at the very edge of giving up and being given up on. It's in this that the quality of the movie lies and it shows us the real Churchill: a flawed but courageous man who fought until the end."

This account of one of the most famous Britons in history left me feeling somewhat disappointed.

The movie focuses around the days leading up to D-Day and the anxiety that Churchill (played by Brian Cox) faced as he expressed his concerns about the invasion with other leaders, including US General Dwight Eisenhower (John Slattery) and King George VI (James Purefoy). In a scene that will give many students of Australian history mixed feelings, Churchill’s greatest fear about the imminent landings is that his involvement in the disastrous Gallipoli invasion  of almost 30 years before will play out again on the beaches of France. It is an agony that hasn’t left him in all that time.

It was this narrow focus of the movie that left me with the sense that there was so much more to see of the life of this man, one of the most famous British prime ministers and one of the key architects of the Allied invasion of Normandy in 1944. With the title of a movie being the name of one of the most famous people of the 20th century, my expectation was that it would be more about his life as a whole rather than merely one significant event in it.

That aside, the movie is well acted, with slow-moving dialogue that builds the escalating tension between Churchill and his colleagues, all of whom are keen to get D-Day underway in order to defeat the scourge of Hitler and bring the war closer to an end. Everyone realises that the future of Europe is on the line, as failure would probably mean a fascist Europe ruled by the Third Reich while victory would lead the way to freedom returning to the continent, including the enemy, Germany.

Cox is brilliant as the famous but unsure Churchill. He brings out the anxiety and insecurity of the British Prime Minister in a way that reveals him as what some may think as all too human for such a great leader. The stresses of the war are revealed in his daily drinking and in the tensions building between him and his wife, Clementine (Miranda Richardson). Added to that is the deep depression that characterised much of his life, especially, it seems, during the weeks leading up to D-Day.

But in the end, we see the great and courageous Churchill revealed, his unique voice reaching across the airwaves as he addresses the British nation on radio and relays the success of the Normandy campaign.

This is a story of courage in the midst of personal despair, of perseverance when you are at the very edge of giving up and being given up on. It's in this that the quality of the movie lies and it shows us the real Churchill: a flawed but courageous man who fought until the end.

Given the somewhat misleading title, I would cautiously recommend this movie to fans of history with the caveat that it only represents a small (albeit noteworthy) chapter of Winston Churchill’s life.