Film Review: CHURCHILL (UK 2017) ***

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churchill.jpgA ticking-clock thriller following Winston Churchill in the 96 hours before D-Day.

Director: Jonathan Teplitzky
Writer: Alex von Tunzelmann
Stars: Brian Cox, Miranda Richardson, John Slattery

Review by Gilbert Seah
CHURCHILL begins with the scene of an image of World War I and II Prime Minister Winston Churchill standing on an isolated beach. He imagines blood washed by the sea on its shores while his black bowler hat eventually floats out into the vast horizon. The scene is rich in metaphors while being solemn, setting the mood for a 2-hour film on a Winston Churchill most of the world do not know. It is a Churchill depicted as a bully, drunk and opinionated self-pitying cad.

It is the week before the planned D-Day landing on the beaches of Normandy which everyone knows led to the defeat of Germany in World War II. No one is aware of the victory of D-Day in the film, and the planning is set with uncertainty. Churchill, after his failure of the Gallipoli war which resulted in the loss of thousands of young British men, was intent not to let the mistake of leading thousands to their death happen again. So, he would stop the D-Day landing at all costs. But planning was already under way,. Everyone including Dwight D. Eisenhower (John Slattery) and Bernard Montgomery (Julian Wadham) believed that the landing would be instrumental in winning the War against the Nazis.

The trouble with this film is hat there is not much story but much repetition of the same storyline. Churchill is against the landing. He is shown the truth and he will only budge at the very end after learning that he had no choice. Still, the film still hails Churchill as a great man, as the title ‘the greatest Briton that ever lived’ is flashed on screen.

There are scenes that show Churchill at his worst. These include those where he is constantly pouring himself whisky and more so, when he takes it out on his secretary, screaming at her for little reason. The script, written by Alex von Tunzelmann is full of great oratorical speeches, which is expected as this is a story of a man who gave the great speeches.

British actor Brian Cox is nothing short of stunning in the title role of the Prime Minister. Cox is currently of the same age as Churchill during the time of the story. The supporting performances of Slattery and Wadham are also impressive. But arguably, the best performance comes surprisingly from Miranda Richardson as Clementine Churchill, his long suffering wife. She does not have the freedom of the luxury of leaving her husband no matter how tortured the marriage had become. The film emphasizes the importance of duty during the War.

CHURCHILL is a war drama without any battle scenes. It would serve as an effective prelude to the upcoming summer blockbuster DUNKIRK, directed by Christopher Nolan which reported is supposed to depict the horrific realities of the landing of the Allied forces on the Normandy beaches. CHURCHILL only hints of the horrors of the landing.


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