Warning: Contains mild spoilers
To be honest, there isn't much I can say in this review – but I figured that as I made a promise to review every film I see at the cinema, and seeing how this film seems to have had a lack of advertising, I'd give it a shot. Heck, I wouldn't have even known about it had I not checked my cinema listings.
So anyway, I don't think I really need to go into too much detail about the plot as those who know their history probably know the events leading up to D-Day, one of the most important moments in WW2. And I'm pretty confident most people know who Winston Churchill is so I won't go into too much detail there. In Churchill, Winston Churchill (played brilliantly by the ever talented Brian Cox) is preparing for D-Day landings. However, Churchill is suffering from Survivors Guilt after the events of WW1. Having fought in that war and the Boer War before it, he has seen too many lives lost in this terrible war and feels it is his duty to protect them. So he tries to either change the D-Day plans to save as many as possible, or fight with them to inspire hope.
Now my WW2 knowledge is fairly basic and I don't really know a huge amount other than the important stuff – and even that I'm hazy on – so I can't say with any certainty how much of this film is accurate and what has been altered for dramatic effect. Indeed, depending on who you speak to, he's either considered one of the biggest heroes in Britain, or – not. Personally I saw him as a bit of both, but you can't deny the guy had passion. Churchill also created one of my favourite speeches of all time. “You have enemies? Good. That means you've stood up for something, sometime in your life.”
In this film, Cox plays him as a tortured soul, drowned by the sorrow of war. Years of being Prime Minister and fighting a seemingly unbeatable enemy have worn him down, and made him question his own merit. But also, there is a lot of frustration behind Churchill as he wants to fight rather than wait behind the lines – he is a soldier after all – but everyone holds him back, due to him being an important political figure (but also maybe because they don't want him to f*** up the plan they have been working on). Let's not forget that D-Day was a vital moment in WW2 and, had it failed, the war could have gone VERY differently.
Positives of the film go to the acting. There isn't one weak cast member in this entire film – and even minor roles have their own gravitas. I already mentioned that Brian Cox is spectacular, but praise also goes to Miranda Richardson for her role as Clementine, who holds Churchill together in a way even he doesn't realise. John Slattery is also great as General Eisenhower, who is at odds with Churchill the whole way through, despite them both having a common cause – he acts a foil to Churchill in this film, as in he wants the war to end, even if it means soldiers have to die. He's not portrayed as a monster, more a realist, so he isn't really the “villain”. Another great performance is James Purefoy (highly underappreciated actor in my opinion) playing King George VI, and even managing to recreated the famous speech impediment he had. Finally, I really loved Ella Purnell as Churchill's secretary. She could have quite easily been a background character, but she has a defining moment in the film that makes even Winston look back on his beliefs. All in all, no complaints with the acting.
What is quite interesting about this film is that, despite it being set during the war, you actually don't SEE any of it – aside from a few flashbacks from WW1. Whilst many could be disappointed with this, for me this is exactly the point the film was trying to make. Winston Churchill was on the back lines throughout the war and he saw no action – that is part of the frustration. He likens himself to the old Generals of WW1 that gave orders from the back whilst others fought in the field, something he hated, so he's basically become the very thing he despised. As such, we only know of the war what is reported, meaning that Churchill is just as much in the dark as the others. But being the Prime Minister, Churchill must inspire hope in the people. Not an easy task when you want to fight, but it was something Churchill had to do.
Only minor complaint – there is a LOT of talking in this film. And often the storyline repeats itself so much that some scenes feel like a copy and paste of a previous scene. If you're into more action orientated films, this one is not for you. You might want to wait for Dunkirk to come out in a few months. However, if you don't mind an hour and a half of talking, then this one should keep you entertained.
Actually, the length is another good feature of this film. Unlike a lot of biographical films, that tend to be between 2-3 hours, this one clocks in at about 1 hour 30. Which I think is good as more than that and this film could have quickly grown stale.
All in all, Churchill is a film with solid acting, but not much action. I can't speak for how historically accurate this film is, but it was decent enough to keep my attention. It's not as dramatically powerful as it could have been – but it's neatly done.
Do I give Churchill 4 out of 5? Oh yes! Oh wait, wrong Churchill!