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Film review: CHURCHILL: by Nick Gardener from ‘Built For Speed’

The film Churchill often feels as if director Johnathon Teplitzky and writer Alex von Tunzelmann have taken The King’s Speech and replaced King George the Sixth with Winston Churchill. Both films are about a British leader confronting self-doubt and the crushing responsibility to their people in the dark days of the Second World War.

Churchill is not a comprehensive biopic of Winston Churchill’s (Brian Cox) life. Instead it focuses solely on the period in 1944 leading up to the D-day invasion. Racked with guilt and seemingly traumatised by memories of the Gallipoli slaughter, an operation he oversaw as war minister, Churchill is desperate not to allow the D-day beach invasion to be a repeat and does his best to obstruct it. This makes him extremely unpopular with just about everyone, particularly Allied commander General Eisenhower and British armed forces leader Field Marshall Montgomery. The conflict sees him increasingly isolated from colleagues and his wife (Miranda Richardson) forcing him to summon every reserve and draw on his renowned gift for oration.

Cox portrays Churchill as a King Lear figure, a once great man succumbing to age and becoming bitter and irrational as younger people – in the case general Eisenhower and Field Marshall Montgomery – usurp his power.  It’s a varying performance from Cox; at times he invests Churchill with a deep sense of tragedy but he also occasionally seems like a caricature. There are also times in which we are aware that we are watching Brian Cox. Irascible and even aggressive toward underlings, Cox does well to capture the negative side of Churchill’s personality without making him entirely dislikeable. The two standout performances, however, are from John Slattery (Madmen) with a convincingly authoritative turn as Ike and Julian Wadham who subtly captures Montgomery’s renowned confidence and sizeable ego.

Tonally, Churchill is a little flat. With its focus on such a short period of time it has a one note feel. Also, like the recent Hitchcock biopic, Churchill has the non-descript look of a tele-movie.  Annoyingly, the film also has too many scenes of people arguing.  There’s no sense of the surrounding devastation in London or the war in any form.

The film also contains some clumsily obvious moments with Roman columns used as a backdrop in one scene to ram home the idea of a crumbling empire.  In addition, there’s some clunky exposition as Churchill conveniently recaps a few moments from his past.

Within its limited scope Churchill has effective moments but it feels disappointingly small given the magnitude of its subject.

Nick’s rating: ***

Genre: Biopic.

Classification: M.

Director(s): Johnathon Teplitzky.

Release date: 9th June 2017.

Running time: 110 mins.

Reviewer: Nick Gardener can be heard on “Built For Speed” every Friday night from 8-10pm right here on 88.3 Southern FM.  Nick can also be heard on “The Good, The Bad, The Ugly Film Show” podcast. http://subcultureentertainment.com/2014/02/the-good-the-bad-the-ugly-film-show

 

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