A ticking-clock thriller following Winston Churchill in the 96 hours before D-Day.
Picking up in the days and hours leading up to D-Day, ‘Churchill’ follows the British prime minister of the time as he grapples with the events that are about to unfold and the potential consequences of the Normandy Landings. He is a man exhausted by the lengthy war campaign and haunted by memories of previous beach landings from his time as a military commander in the First World War, and he struggles in a position where he is in the loop, but without much control over what will happen. The material is compelling and Jonathan Teplitzky’s film has an imperious Brian Cox in the central role, but it only comes to life in fits and bursts and I can’t help but feel that a stronger director could have crafted a much stronger and more affecting study of the man often cited as the Greatest Ever Briton.
The film portrays Churchill as an ageing man who is sidelined from the big decisions around D-Day and the knowledge without control tortures him, with his authority essentially ceded to the military under General Montgomery and Supreme Allied Commander Eisenhower. He is respected by those around him, but we can tell that they also see him as a man out of time, with his references to the First World War not seen as relevant to the different circumstances of the Second. He is played superbly by Brian Cox, one of the finest British actors of his generation, and he brings a real gravitas to a role that could easily have been a caricature. He captures the gruff charm that made him such a charismatic figurehead, whilst also getting under the skin at the self doubt and worries that plagued him at this point in time. He’s well supported by Miranda Richardson as his wife Clementine, and John Slattery as Eisenhower, but this is Brian Cox’s film and he owns every moment of it.
‘Churchill’ is a captivating character study of Winston Churchill at a crucial time in history, driven by a masterclass from Brian Cox at its heart that helps to overcome some of the wrinkles in the script, and it’s worth seeing for his performance alone.
Directed By: Jonathan Teplitzky
Starring: Brian Cox, Miranda Richardson, John Slattery, James Purefoy, Ella Purnell, Julian Wadham, Danny Webb and Richard Durden