Cert PG 98min Stars 4
Brian Cox gives a rich full bodied performance as the UK’s greatest Prime Minister in this compelling wartime drama.
Suitably stately and sombre, it’s a sometimes stagey account of his days leading up to D-Day in June, 1944. Having steered the country through the war, Churchill is affronted when marginalised by the allied Generals Montgomery and Eisenhower.
Moving between gravitas, charm, weariness and anger, Cox essays a deeply personal portrait of Winston Churchill. This is a man haunted by his disastrous campaign at Gallipoli in the First World War and anxious to avoid unnecessary bloodshed on the Normandy beaches.
As the outcome of the Second World War isn’t in doubt, we’re presented with a superbly performed character study, with each principal actor given their chance to shine.
Julian Wadham, John Slattery and James Purefoy respectively play Montgomery, Eisenhower, King George VI and and each give a distinctive interpretation of the very different personalities.
Miranda Richardson is sadly rationed as Churchill’s no-nonsense wife, Clementine, possibly because she dominates whenever she enters a room.
There are echoes of Shakespeare’s King Lear in this moving account as Cox humanises the great man, capturing his mood swings, self doubt, irascible spirit and sharp wit. Cox savours his dialogue, swilling words around his mouth as Churchill does his ever present Scotch and cigars
With an insistence on the importance of General’s leading from the front and concern for civilian casualties, the brisk script is inherently critical of the vogue for drone warfare.
An absence of spectacle and battles allows the elegant photography to conjure a carefully composed mood of apprehension and fear.
The power and intelligence of the film swell up on us, erupting in a magnificent piece of Churchillian oratory which may well inspire people to stand in the aisles and salute. It would be fully deserved by the film, and the man.