Carved from granite and defined by terms thankfully impossible to replicate, Churchill is understated, memorable and more than a match for the forthcoming Gary Oldman interpretation.
This World War period piece elicits feeling, provokes mood and reminds you of greatness. Greatness we are unlikely to experience in our lifetime or any other, not because such fortitude is lacking amongst people but because wars are no longer fought this way. Times have changed, technology has moved on and our warriors no longer march on battlefields, communicate through faceless political speeches or order land forces into uncertainty. Everything about warfare as it existed in 1944 has gone forever, replaced by satellite surveillance, long range smart bombs and cyberterrorism from which no one alone can make a difference. Which is what makes Churchill so important.
Charting the final few days prior to landing on Normandy beaches this film is forged in gunfire, defined by casualties and grounded by victory. Victory we know is coming on a journey taken by one man against an enemy both reprehensible and diabolical in word and deed. Standing amidst this maelstrom of make or break occupation or liberation is Brian Cox. Rambunctious, bullish, racked with self-doubt and alone for too long, his Winston Churchill is a masterclass in performance from an actor of distinction. By turns scathingly sarcastic and witheringly dry this once great leader holds court whenever he enters a room. Others acknowledge his status whilst working around a misguided sense of entitlement and increasing lack of tactical grip upon the situation.
Ably supported, mollycoddled and appeased by both General Montgomery and Dwight Eisenhower, Winston is all too human, as his position is eroded by age, infirmity and failing faculties. Cox adopts the familiar gait, trademark posture and indomitable spirit without resorting to cliché. Miranda Richardson also adds elegance and tolerance to her portrayal of his long suffering wife Clemmie, who is the only one capable of admonishing without incurring any backlash. After long years of companionship theirs is a marriage now founded upon duty not bonded by love. In his eyes you can see the man child battling both an ailing body, fading mental acuity and disintegrating marriage. Cox and Richardson bind this war story together in the few solitary moments when Churchill is relieved of his public responsibilities.
Wearied by warfare and lamenting a strategic decision made years ago, failure haunts him. His relevance is dwindling while memory dwells on past transgressions and Winston is kept around for what he meant, not what he means now. Ultimately Churchill is a biopic given heart by solid character support from John Slattery, John Wadham and Richard Durden, who give gravitas to the tale of an aging prime minister, forever iconic in adversity. Carved from granite and defined by terms thankfully impossible to replicate, Churchill is understated, memorable and more than a match for the forthcoming Gary Oldman interpretation.
Written by Martin Carr
Directed by: Jonathan Teplitzky
Written by: Alex von Tunzelmann
Starring: Brian Cox, Miranda Richardson, John Slattery, Ella Purnell, James Purefoy
Released: 2017 / Genre: Drama
Country: UK / IMDB
Top 10 Films reviewed Churchill on DVD courtesy of Lionsgate Home Entertainment. The film was released on Digital October 9 and on Blu-ray and DVD on October 16.