Neil Finn may have said that history never repeats but former British PM and legendary statesman, Winston Churchill worried that the opposite would happen. During World War II he was concerned that the tragedy of Gallipoli would be repeated. The film Churchill is a dramatic bio-pic that examines this very issue in fine detail but it also feels tragically incomplete because it is only one chapter in the life story of a man who was once voted the greatest Briton of all time.
Australian director, Jonathan Teplitzky is no stranger to committing the stories of WWII on film having previously made The Railway Man about a former army solider and POW. In Churchill we have a screenplay by Alex von Tunzelmann who places the focus on the last few days of the war leading up to D-Day (but this is actually incorrect because in reality Churchill was opposed to some of these tactics for a longer period than this film hints at).
Scottish actor Brian Cox stars as the eponymous British leader and is a veritable powerhouse. He does an excellent job of capturing the many facets of Churchill’s personality: from the torture and anguish at feeling responsible for the huge loss of life, to the pillar of strength that he was when he delivered one of his inspiring and word-perfect speeches. The film also devotes some time to showing Churchill’s failing health, alcoholism and feelings of hopelessness and lack of power in the war; especially at the hands of the Americans and in particular, President Eisenhower (John Slattery).
Churchill’s long-suffering wife Clementine (a strong Miranda Richardson) often has to pick up the pieces. The relationship she shares with her husband is a complex one and it is evident that this war is taking a toll on Churchill and his personal and professional life. There is one fascinating scene when he is confronted by King George VI (James Purefoy) who advises Churchill not to follow the men into battle despite the Prime Minister’s enthusiasm to see things through.
This bio-pic is intriguing because it shows how vehemently opposed Churchill was to some of the decisions made in the Second World War and the tactics that what would become Operation Overlord. But in spite of this you also get the sense that this tense film would have been all the richer if it had been broadened in scope to include a lot more of this man’s long and rich history. Churchill is ultimately an interesting and intimate character study that looks at a tumultuous period in time when some monumental decisions had to be made. Messer Churchill is shown here for better or worse and in short, the focus is on some risky business.
Review Score: THREE AND A HALF STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
Churchill opens in cinemas nationally on June 8.