Another movie about Winston Churchill? There have been dozens over the years illuminating various eras and roles in his life. This one takes on just a few days. But what days they were! Churchill takes the audience for a behind the scenes look at the political wrangling leading up to D-day and Churchill’s reluctance to commit British troops to the Allied operation. It’s one more film that portrays him as an egotistical and difficult man, though here his wife, who was most likely his saving grace, tempers his enormous presence. You know how it ends, if you know any history, but getting there is really more psychological drama than war movie.
Churchill finds it difficult to be sidelined by the Allied Generals. He reminds them that A) He is the Prime Minster, damn it! And B) He was a soldier in World War I and knows war intimately. And while they may respect his position, they have to keep reminding him that warfare has changed in the ensuing decades. The plans are drawn. The soldiers are ready. And even The King has given his blessing to Eisenhower. But Churchill tries again and again to stop them or change the plans as the clock is ticking. Anything so that casualties are kept to a minimum. It turns out he still feels horrifying guilt over his central role in the Allied slaughter at Gallipoli. And stopping the senseless loss of more young men, as he sees the plan, is his penance. And to that end he throws his weight and anything else he can heft around.
The Churchills, Winston and Clementine, are played by veteran thespian Brian Cox (The Bourne Franchise, Braveheart) and the always wonderful Miranda Richarson (Dance with a Stranger, The Harry Potter Franchise). And General Eisenhower is played by John Slattery (Mad Men, Spotlight). They’re all good in their roles. And the way it’s written and directed the film moves along at a pretty swift pace. But at the end, I’m kind of just okay with Churchill. It wouldn’t be a lot different watching on a plane or on your favorite streaming service. And I’m not sure true Churchill fans will learn anything new here. I’d love, however, to know more about Clementine.
[Mainstream Chick weighs in: I’m in the same camp on this one. Churchill is a small but interesting film that presents a brief, engaging character study of the British icon in the days leading up to the Allied invasion of Normandy (codename: Operation Overlord). The director went a bit over the top at times with the overt attempts at artistry – playing with shadows and light, reflections in the mirror, a hat skipping along the sand, etc. but I appreciated the emphasis on the power of words and convictions. Churchill is a complicated guy – feeling the weight of the war, the ramifications and sacrifice, but he also – with the help of his wife – understands the importance of unifying people and giving them a sense of hope. Perhaps the current U.S. administration can score a special screening in the White House movie room. The sooner, the better. There are valuable lessons to be learned here.]