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Churchill - Movie Review

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Churchill - Movie Review

2 starsBoy, does Brian Cox ever ham it up in the wartime bio-drama Churchill! For that matter, so does everyone else involved, from director Jonathan Teplitzky, who is never able to put the brakes on Cox’s Shakespeareian histrionics, to first-time screenwriter Alex von Tunzelmann, whose anything-but-subtle script declares its beats with the nuance of a sledgehammer. Even Lorne Balf's orchestral score continually swoops in to remind us we’re watching something very important.

Yet, despite all the theatrics, and melodramatic hullabaloo, we’re hard-pressed to find anything interesting to latch onto in Teplitzky’s film that covers the flawed titular British Prime Minister’s final days leading up to the allied invasion of Normandy in the closing months of World War II. It’s just not a very fun film to watch, nor does von Tunzelmann’s script get much of the history correct. Sadly, the loser in all this is not the viewer, but instead, Sir Winston Churchill himself, whose beguiling legacy will, again, be forced into cold storage until the next film comes along hoping for a more weighty resonance.

The film opens D-Day minus three, or three days before Operation Overlord. Von Tunzelmann tells us that Churchill was so vehemently opposed to the invasion of Normandy as planned and headed by Generals Eisenhower (John Slattery) and Montgomery (Julian Wadham), that he resorted to belligerence and shouting matches with his commanders and even went so far as to develop plans of his own. Naturally, his poor wife Clementine takes the brunt of his ire and Miranda Richardson rises with what might be the best performance of the lot as a woman of strength, beauty and distinction. Her “Clemmie” is undoubtedly the strongest member of the Churchill household.

Von Tunzelmann gives us the lesser-explored side of the Prime Minster who struggled with personal demons that continued to haunt him decades after his miserable failure at Gallipoli during World War I. Faced with bouts of deep depression and a wicked drinking habit, Churchill foundered in his own self-doubt at a moment when the fate of the world depended on him most.

Cox is not a total failure with his Churchill. He certainly looks the part with furrowed brow, hunched-over physique, Cuban cigar, Homburg hat, and cane shrouded in the signature black pea coat. But his given dialogue is almost always simple-minded and a bit too on-the-nose, especially during an overwrought later scene that has Churchill lowering to his knees to pray – no beg – the Lord to make it rain so the invasion might be called off. And Cox never does himself any favors with a boastful melodrama not seen since his time with the Royal Shakespeare Company in the ‘90s. And no. Spittle flying from his dangling jowls doesn’t insinuate good acting. It feels forced.

Though Churchill’s objection to the plan and the degree to which he opposed it has been debated by scholars for decades, there’s no denying that this is an odd, and frankly unfair, gesture by the film’s makers to mold a biography around such a brief period of a subject’s life. Granted, there may not be a more important three days in the history of the world, but it simply doesn’t feel genuine. And this is the film’s biggest flaw. We’re asked to understand, judge, and empathize with a man based upon a single decision (that he opposed the invasion), and on such a small bit of his life that isn’t actually reflective of the whole. As a result we’re left with a strange hybrid of a film that is part biography, part world history, and part psychological examination, but is never totally authentic or thorough about either of those parts.

Clearly, the film’s makers were going for a warts-and-all behind-the-curtains look into the motivations of a man who a closing title card calls “the greatest Briton of all time.” But what’s behind that curtain is neither enlightening, interesting, nor particularly flattering. Instead, it comes off as more dishonest and incomplete than anything else.

Churchill - Movie Review

MPAA Rating: PG for thematic elements, brief war images, historical smoking throughout, and some language.
Runtime:
98 mins
Director
: Jonathan Teplitzky
Writer:
Alex von Tunzelmann
Cast:
Brian Cox, Miranda Richardson, John Slattery
Genre
: Drama
Tagline:
The Untold Story of D-Day.
Memorable Movie Quote: "We defy Hitler. It is time to win this great war."
Theatrical Distributor:
Cohen Media Group
Official Site: http://www.embankmentfilms.com/portfolio_page/churchill/
Release Date:
June 2, 2017
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
No details available.
Synopsis: Tensions mount for the beleaguered British Prime Minister Winston Churchill (Brian Cox) in the days leading up to infamous Allied D-Day landings in Normandy, France in June, 1944. Fearful of repeating his deadly mistakes from World War I in the Battle of Gallipoli, exhausted by years of war, plagued by depression and obsessed with his historical destiny, Churchill is reluctant to embark on the large-scale campaign, one that the entire war effort hinges upon. Clashing with his Allied political opponents U.S. General Dwight D. Eisenhower (John Slattery) and British Field Marshal Bernard Law Montgomery (Julian Wadham), the troubled Churchill receives support and devotion from his wife, the brilliant and unflappable Clementine Churchill (Miranda Richardson). With her strength and shrewdness, “Clemmie” halts Winston’s physical, mental spiritual collapse and inspires him on to greatness.

No details available.

Churchill - Movie Review

 

 

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