I have long admired Winston Churchill. So having a year where two films are coming out centered around the great man is exciting for me. As usual I don’t research films before I go and see them as I don’t want to build my own expectations, let’s just say I have burnt my own fingers too many times and know that I get disappointed when films don’t live up to either my own expectations or the hype.
First things first, let’s address the reviews. This film has been slammed for portraying a warped history, which Churchill is against operation overlord. Personally I think that the portrayal has been taken too literally. Yes this film does show Churchill fighting Eisenhower each step of the way, and wanting to change the plans of the D-day landings, but this is not totally untrue either. I appreciate that this is a historical piece, but where would we be if films stuck strictly to history? Dramatic license has to have a place in the film industry and present a story to audiences. So if you intend to watch this film and have a detailed knowledge of the D-day landings, cut it some slack and concentrate on message that the film is giving…even the tag line says it….the icon you know, the man you don’t…and the performances within the film.
This film concentrates on the build up to D-day and the 96 hours before it. Brian Cox gives a great (in my opinion) performance as Churchill and Miranda Richardson plays his long suffering wife Clementine. The relationship shows a strained marriage, which I am sure being married to Churchill, alone, would have probably been, throw in a long standing war and the pressure on their relationship must have been tremendous. The imagery at the start of this film is beautifully disturbing, with Churchill on a beach, the ocean runs red with bloody and it is transferred to his vision of the battle in Gallipoli, dead bodies strewn around the beach. Indicating Churchill’s own trauma from his own efforts in previous wars. Let’s not forget that Churchill was a war machine, he had been in the last charge of the light brigade and in the Sudan, he had also seen action in the First World War, where his anxiety about the D-day operation stems from, in his charge, the landings in Gallipoli had seen great losses.
This film really centres around Churchill’s dedication to the British empire, his anxieties about the planned advances and his known bouts of depression. Also his witty yet cantankerous word smithery, his ability to speak his mind in a fashion which denoted his knowledge and aptitude but also with the ability to intimidate and aggrevate. It does also show his sheer bloody mindedness which lets face it, we all know he was not put off by a bit off verbal assault to those that fell out of favour with him.
I loved the subtle filming of the piece, using him smoking a cigar in close up shots as the moments where Churchill tries to find clarity of thought…this is subtle though and I’m not sure that everyone watching this film will see these moments the same as I did. The sets indoors were indicative of a mind torn and the outdoor shots lush.
This film, did try to move away from the military tactics and show the more personal side, peaking at Churchill’s depression bolstered from previous war time planning, where he feels history will repeat itself. The film doesn’t try to hide his drinking, and shows that all great men are flawed. It shows his own anxiety about not knowing what he will be when the war ends, this apparently came from writings in his wife’s diaries.
We will never really know what Churchill was like to his nearest and dearest and I think that this is the main part which has enraged some viewers, with them feeling the film makers have concentrated on the melo drama of Churchill rather than concentrating on the war effort that history scribes. Please remember that history is only as good as the documented cases, so his wife’s diaries would be her take on what was happening at this time.
So yes the time lines and dipiction of things are warped to fit this in to an hour and a half, but I still thought that this was brilliant. Ending on one of Churchill’s speeches which helped keep the moral of the nation up during this bleak time, I found this film witty and beautiful to watch.