Brian Cox plays the World War 2 Prime Minister. It’s 1944 and Churchill himself feels like a spent force, not only that but the Generals of the Allies don’t want him involved in the decisions needed to win the war, so it’s not going well for him. The Allies are about to launch the D-Day offensive, the point in the war where the tide turns towards the win. Winston Churchill though just sees another massacre of the brave young men as he saw in the First World War and is pressuring everyone to see that the landings in Normandy are the greatest mistake.
Brian Cox was the first Doctor Lector, in Manhunter, and when I read the book it was his face I saw as the cannibal. When I got to watch Manhunter knowing what I knew about the character and seeing this caged beast in such a subtle form it was more terrifying than any monster movie. Here is a fun fact for you Brian Cox doesn’t watch any of his movies back, to think of all the good movies and performances he’s given, and he hasn’t watched them back.
In Churchill, Brian Cox plays probably the role he’s had in many years, we see a different man presented to us than we get in the history books. He’s almost a spent force and those around him feel it. He doesn’t want the landings to go ahead and he tries to persuade anyone that listens. From the King to General Eisenhower, with all the British Generals along the way. None wants his opinion at this stage, and his objections are falling on deaf ears, but they need him to do the political stuff. He feels that the mistakes of the First World War are going to be repeated and it will leave the war in the hands of the Germans. Trying to keep Winston on track and balanced is his long-suffering Wife Clemintine, played by the always dependable Miranda Richardson, and the chemistry between the two stars is just spot on.
Having not known that Churchill had this doubt about the D Day landings, which I’m pretty sure is exaggerated in the film, but there would have to be a grain of truth in there, Churchill gives us one of the better examples that the man was human. The way they have him going through his speeches again and again proves that his off the cuff remarks were more rehearsed than they seemed. This will be a great companion piece to Christopher Nolan’s upcoming Dunkirk movie. The performances from the top the the supporting cast members, along with some uncanny likenesses from the majority of famous roles in the War, just add to the feeling of being injected straight into the story.
While Churchill is probably the definitive recreation of the war-time Prime Minister there are times that it lost me along the way. It spent too much time hammering home the same point time and time again, like the Generals feeling that he’s past his best, and his stubborn nature. I wanted more of that relationship between husband and wife, as you could feel the tension building between the two, that would have given a greater insight. I want to give a shout out to James Purefoy who gives an excellent performance of King George VI, a man torn between his duty to his country and his family, and wants to make sure that Winston remains safe.
For history fans this is a clever insight into Winston’s latter political career, his inner demons, and his personal life. I don’t know if the appeal will be as broad as it should be but if you like World War Two films it’s a great companion piece focusing on the background characters rather than the front lines.
Director: Jonathan Teplitzky
Writer: Alex von Tunzelmann
Stars: Brian Cox, Miranda Richardson, John Slattery
Check out these movie posters with some his his quotes: