'Churchill' bombasts toward D-Day
By Martha K. Baker
What does an old soldier who remembers his infamous failure in an earlier war do when his country and its allies' generals are ready to mount a major attack? That's the question that the excellent film Churchill ponders regarding the Prime Minister of England in the run-up to D-Day.
If you're Winston Churchill, you cannot forget the World War I disaster at Gallipoli in which you were involved and forever castigated. If you're film director Jonathan Teplitzky, who also directed the excellent The Railway Man, you make art from life. You place Churchill within his memory as he stands on a beach, the water turning blood red from dead bodies. You use his hat as a symbol, and you exploit windows in cars and magnificent halls and mirrors to contrast with the windowless bunkers for war planning.
There, Churchill listens in 1944, listening to General Eisenhower and Field Marshal Montgomery describe a plan to invade France in World War II overwhelm the enemy. But all Churchill can think of is the sacrifice the boy soldiers will be making. He rails against generals in London sending boys to die on the beaches of Normandy. He does not listen to the men around him or to his wife Clementine. He listens to his heart as he drafts and delivers speeches.
Remarkable British actor Brian Cox blusters and blasts Churchill's words, his perambulations and depression. John Slattery is less successful as Ike, but Richard Durden is highly effective as the Boer Jan Smuts. Most amazing is Miranda Richardson, every bit as beautiful and forceful as Clementine.
Alex van Tunzelmann's script quotes and imagines the principles's conversations and speeches. But it's Treplitzky's camera work that grabs, making Churchill not just history but also a work of art.