Churchill: Film Review

We’ve recently seen Winston Churchill in The Crown, played by the award-winning John Lithgow and will we soon see him again in Darkest Hour, where he is portrayed by Gary Oldman. So do we need another one in the meantime? Well, probably not, but at least in Churchill we are presented with a different moment in time and an impressive performance by Brian Cox.

Churchill shows the British Prime Minister in the 96 hours before the D-Day landings, when Allied forces launched an invasion on Nazi-occupied France via sea and air in 1944. The risk of the Normandy invasion (think Saving Private Ryan) was huge – two million troops and millions of pounds worth of artillery, vehicles etc – so naturally Churchill has a hard time deciding whether to go ahead with it.

The film is essentially just men in different rooms talking about whether to go or not and it is very dialogue heavy. Churchill is opposed to the idea but General Eisenhower (John Slattery) and General Montgomery (Julian Wadham), the men in charge of the mission, are very much for it. Obviously this leads to some tension, and this is where we witness the hot-headed and argumentative Churchill come out all guns a blazing, yelling at everyone under the sun.

It’s quite difficult to be invested in the story at the beginning because Churchill isn’t pleasant and just blasts everyone without letting them getting a word in and seems to be more of a hindrance than a help. It’s only when we get to see him in quiet and contemplative moments, when he feels the weight of responsibility on his shoulders, that you feel something for him and become engaged. Cox excels at showing us the human side of the public figure, thankfully, as he is a bit over the top when he’s being stubborn and combative.

Miranda Richardson puts in a fantastic turn as his wife, who struggles to deal with his temper and cope with being the wife of the PM at such a difficult time. It was great to see her get a moment. Ella Purnell gets a couple of times to shine as his secretary Helen and unfortunately for James Purefoy his depiction of King George VI is always going to be compared to Colin Firth’s in The King’s Speech and it will always come up short.

It has been described as “ticking clock thriller” on IDMb but it didn’t feel that thrilling to me. Sure, when they are deciding whether to launch the mission or not, I was captivated, but we know the outcome already so it’s not really that tense. The limited time frame of the movie was a good idea because it gave it a sense of urgency and helped propel the film along, but it’s more of a general biopic. Cox put in an impressive performance but I imagine it will be forgotten about between John Lithgow and Gary Oldman’s portrayals.

In cinemas now 

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