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Churchill - Film Review

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by Douglas Sutherland-Bruce (subscribe)
Douglas has been a professional food writer since 1986. He is also an award-winning actor and director in Community Theatre and has been for many years. His blog may be found at:
Published May 25th 2017
The whole truth? Nothing like the truth
Any actor cast as Sir Winston Churchill has a huge challenge on at least two levels.

Firstly, Churchill is possibly the most instantly recognisable human of the twentieth century with an unmistakable voice and delivery so that every actor is measured against the reality and often found wanting.

It's not as though he's a character in a book capable of a wide variety of interpretations.

Secondly, there is a huge pantheon of truly great actors who have gone before into the spotted blue bow tie - Richard Burton, Robert Hardy, Albert Finney, Timothy Spall, Michael Gambon, Brendan Gleeson, Simon Ward, Timothy West, Bob Hoskins and, most recently, John Lithgow.

Into this stellar array strides Brian Cox, a magnificent actor with a rich, full voice more than capable of living up to the legend in the movie Churchill.

Churchill, Brian Cox, Miranda Richardson, Clementine Churchill, World War II
General Allen Brooke (Danny Webb and Winston Churchill (Brian Cox) in Churchill (Photograph courtesy of the Distributor)

The movie covers only four days of Churchill's life - the 2nd to the 6th June, 1944, the three days immediately preceding D Day and the day itself.

As something of a student of Churchill the man I must say with every conviction, that Churchill the movie is a superbly acted, magnificently and lovingly photographed, perfectly dressed, dreamily musically accompanied, load of twaddle.

Churchill himself, in a staggering likeness by Cox, is presented as a drunken buffoon totally opposed to D-Day and doing his best to prevent it, even going so far as to pray for bad weather to prevent what he believes will be wholesale slaughter of young soldiers in an action reminiscent of the disastrous Gallipoli landings.

In truth Churchill was opposed to the invasion of France - in 1942 when so was everyone else in the British High Command. They argued, correctly, that men, materiel and resources needed to be built up and trained preparatory to invasion, but by the time June 1944 came around Churchill threw his not inconsiderable weight into the success of the plan, which could not have succeeded any earlier, despite the American's impetuosity or Stalin's pleadings.

The movie has no real plot, merely a series of vignettes, beautifully filmed and relying heavily on the photogenic qualities of cigar smoke, allied with immaculate and accurate costuming (Churchill is shown, preposterously, in full Court Dress at an outdoor meeting of the Allied Commanders, but wearing, correctly, the ribbon and badge of the Companions of Honour).

The script is mundane at best, seldom rising above high school cliché (the junior typist rebukes Churchill for being negative and he immediately apologises to her and changes his attitude).

A truly surprising number of the preview audience seem to feel that they were watching an acted documentary rather than the farrago of misinformation, fiction and animus towards a great man. The HMS Belfast incident is particularly egregious. The King did not agree Churchill and he could go ashore in the first wave and then change his mind.

The true story is far more interesting and just a little inspiring - look it up.

If most political biographies are 'lives of Lady Catherine De Burgh written by Mr Collins' this is a picture of Churchill that could have been written by Mr Irving.

Churchill, Brian Cox, Miranda Richardson, Clementine Churchill, World War II
Brian Cox and Miranda Richardson as Winston and Clemmie in Churchill (Photograph courtesy of the Distributors)

Brian Cox is brilliant, the supporting cast is outstanding (particularly Miranda Richardson as Clemmie) but it could all have been so much better. Huge talents totally wasted in this baseless attack on a great man's character, motives and reputation.

The season runs from 2nd June at Cinema Paradiso in Perth.

Not Recommended.

Churchill, Brian Cox, Miranda Richardson, Clementine Churchill, World War II

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Why? Churchill and D Day
When: Various - see website
Cost: Various - see website
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