Posted: Thursday, June 1, 2017 – 8:32 PM
Churchill is the latest film drama to depict the iconic British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, concentrating on his later life in politics as he tries to recapture his stature and worldwide fame as a brilliant tactician and leader.
The film opens a few days before June 6, 1944 – the D-Day invasion. As hundreds and thousands of Allied soldiers are preparing to attack Nazi-occupied Europe, Churchill, wanting desperately to re-instate himself in the eyes of the allies as an invincible leader in the free world, disagrees with the plans. He fears, the way it has been set up, thousands of young allied soldiers will be slaughtered. Gen. Dwight Eisenhower, commander of the D-Day operations, and British military commander, Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery, object to his decision and his presence which is a severe blow to his ego and status.
The movie is blessed with outstanding performances by Brian Cox as Churchill and Miranda Richardson as his wife Clementine. As director Jonathan Teplitzky guides Churchill through his outbursts and various mood changes, it is the seemingly invincible Clementine who is always there to calm his temperament. Never relenting, Churchill, thinking about his stature in history which he believes is shrinking in the eyes of his contemporaries, vociferously countermands Eisenhower, played by a very competent John Slattery, who adamantly refuses to change his mind. The D-Day invasion will proceed as planned.
Churchill resorts to tantrums and bouts of drinking. Once again, it is Clementine’s strength and commitment to her illustrious husband that settles him down. We are privy to a side of the great man never exhibited in film before. We sympathize with his efforts in trying to regain his withering stature. The guilt he harbors for his prior mistakes while serving as prime minister of England is a driving force behind his rants as he feels Eisenhower is wrong in his calculations. But, we also feel his compassion as he pleads for the lives of thousands of young men who will most assuredly lose their lives.
Churchill the movie, does not come off as smooth as it should and you might have some difficulty in following the action. However, you will be transfixed with Cox and Richardson in the pivotal roles as well as the historical events. If you are a history buff, you will be satisfied and if you are a moviegoer who delights in terrific acting, you will not be disappointed.
3 bagels out of 4
Jerry Cutler, The Courier’s film critic, is rabbi at Creative Arts Temple.