Churchill (PG)

Drama (2017)
98mins UK

Starring: Miranda Richardson, John Slattery, Brian Cox, Julian Wadham, Ella Purnell
Director: Jonathan Teplitzky
Writer(s): Alex von Tunzelmann
Listings: London | Rest of UK and Ireland

The year is 1944 and Churchill is haunted by the ramifications of his decision during the First World War on the beaches of Gallipoli. Plagued by depression and determined to solidify his place in history, Churchill frustrates General Dwight Eisenhower and Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery by suggesting the allied force's invasion of Nazi-occupied Europe should be delayed. Political rivals circle, questioning the prime minister's resolve.

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LondonNet Film Review
Churchill (PG)

Sir Winston Churchill is often lionised for his barnstorming speeches, which galvanised the British people during the Sturm und Drang of the Second World War. Director Jonathan Teplitzky's uneven character study paints a very different portrait of the bombastic statesman during one of the most turbulent periods of his leadership: the nervous hours leading to the D-Day landings in June 1944. A pedestrian script, penned by historian Alex von Tunzelmann, doesn't portray the cigar-puffing Prime Minister as a political giant of unwavering resolve, full of inspirational words to salve fears on the front line. Instead, this Churchill is an insufferable, bullying voice of dissent to Operation Overlord, gnarled by depression and the unimaginable loss of young life on the beaches of Gallipoli during the First World War...

Churchill. Copyright: Salon Churchill Ltd. Caption: Brain Cox as Winston Churchill in Churchill, directed by Jonathan Teplitsky. Photo: Graeme Hunter. All Rights Reserved.So many young men, so much waste," he laments, staring out to sea. Time and time again, the titular statesman attempts to halt the allied forces' advance into Nazi-occupied Europe. "The invasion of France is a deadly gamble that must be stopped," he growls in direct opposition to military leaders. By the sombre conclusion of Teplitzky's picture, he has been forcibly coerced into acceptance.

The clock is ticking down to the sixth hour of the sixth day of the sixth month and Churchill (Brian Cox) is and determined to solidify his place in history. He repeatedly frustrates General Dwight Eisenhower (John Slattery), Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery (Julian Wadham) and Field Marshal Alan Brooke (Danny Webb) by stubbornly arguing against Operation Overlord. "I feel like a man chained to the chariot of a lunatic," seethes Montgomery in disbelief. An intervention by King George VI (James Purefoy) fails to steer Churchill onto a more positive course so it is left to Winston's unflappable wife Clementine (Miranda Richardson) to facilitate the healing process. She reminds him of his responsibility to men on the front line, including the fiance of Winston's new secretary, Helen (Ella Purnell). Tempers fray, leading to confrontations between the Prime Minister and his inner circle. "The last time you spoke, it was doubt, dithering and treachery," Montgomery barks at Churchill, fearing the Prime Minister's physical and mental decline will slam shut this one small window of opportunity.

Churchill proposes an alternative version of events to the history books, anchored by Cox's resolute lead performance that doesn't aim for word-perfect mimicry. At times, it's a deeply unsympathetic portrayal that has uncomfortable echoes of present-day leaders, who approach diplomacy like a human wrecking ball. Richardson offers strident support in a role that feels malnourished on screen while co-stars are essentially mouthpieces for the underlying argument that conflict necessitates terrible sacrifices for a greater good. Teplitzky's film articulates this agonising moral dilemma as a polite whisper rather than a deafening roar.

- Jo Planter

Churchill. Copyright: Salon Churchill Ltd. Caption: Brain Cox as Winston Churchill in Churchill, directed by Jonathan Teplitsky. Photo: Graeme Hunter. All Rights Reserved.

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