“We will bore them on the beaches”.
“Churchill” tells the story of the great leader’s extreme opposition to “Operation Overlord”, the Eisenhower-led invasion of Normandy in 1944 that ultimately led – more by luck that judgement perhaps – to the fall of the Third Reich in the following year.
I’m not a historian but am married to one, so know the importance of “sources” in the pursuit of “truth”: one man’s terrorist is after all another man’s freedom fighter from a different perspective. Some sources on the internet (here for example) certainly suggest the The British (led by Churchill as Prime Minister) might have sensibly promoted the acceleration of the Italian campaign to reach Berlin rather than the far riskier Channel crossing.
This film however paints Churchill as a man demonised by his decision to send young men to their deaths in the fateful Gallipoli beach landings of World War One, with this – rather than a sensible strategic one – being the primary reason for opposing the Normandy landings. To further paint him as a bumbling old fool that is “worked around” by his peers strikes you as borderline libellous.
So the film’s script, by novice Alex von Tunzelmann, immediately set the wrong tone with me, and the undeniably strong performances of Brian Cox (“The Bourne Identity”) as Churchill and the wonderful Miranda Richardson (“Harry Potter” and the soon to be released “Stronger”) as Clemmie can’t fill the gap.
Besides anything else, diretor Jonathan Teplitzky (“The Railway Man”) delivers a piece so dull and lifeless, and with so much brooding, that its not remotely enjoyable. You think the introduction of a bullied secretary – Ms Garrett (Ella Purnell) – with a strong personal connection to ‘Overlord’ will add dramatic colour? But this angle too seems to go nowhere in particular.
There are many tales of the Normandy landings that are fascinating, over and above the dramatic sweep of “The Longest Day” (which is surely well overdue for a remake?) and Spielberg’s fictionalisation of the Niland brothers in “Saving Private Ryan”. How about the 2 out of 29 American amphibious tanks that reached Omaha beach after ignoring British advice to not launch so far from shore in rough seas?
So, as a film, it might be “worthy”. But I didn’t remotely believe the depiction of Churchill and it astonished me that such a rivetingly exciting period of British history could deliver a film that bored me. So, sorry, can’t recommend this one. Perhaps Joe Wright will have a better go with Gary Oldman as Churchill in “Darkest Hour”…
Fad Rating: FF.