Thursday, June 1, 2017

It wasn't Churchill's finest hour

Brian Cox excels but Churchill falters.
Brian Cox excels in Churchill, a movie that reduces a large historical figure to an egotistical, guilt-ridden older man who believes plans for the D-Day landing of 1944 are entirely misguided and will result in needless death.

As characterized in this truncated character study, Churchill resists ceding leadership to Allied military commanders -- notably Eisenhower and Montgomery -- who planned the Normandy invasion that ultimately brought the war in Europe to a close.

An aging Churchill refuses to accept a role as Britain's principal figurehead, a once towering leader whose main function involves buoying the spirit of war-weary Britain.

In this version, Churchill drinks too much, treats subordinates cruelly and refuses to listen to his devoted but pragmatically oriented wife (Amanda Richardson). She realizes that Churchill is past his prime.

For his part, Churchill worries that the landing at Normandy will mirror World War I events at Gallipoli in which some 56,000 soldiers died and for which Churchill felt a personal responsibility. He had helped engineer what became a disastrous mission.

Mad Men's John Slattery portrays Eisenhower, Julian Wadham appears as Montgomery, and James Purefoy has a touching moment as King George VI, who's called upon to back Churchill down from a plan to be present during the invasion.

The movie probably would have benefited from a little more ambition and a lot more scope -- and that goes for the way the movie approaches Churchill, as well.

As it stands, director Jonathan Teplitzky has made a minor entry into the cinematic literature of the war. It's a bit like having only one chapter of what should have been a multi-volume endeavor.

No comments: