With just a few short days before D Day and the Allied Forces desperate attempt to drive the Nazis out of France, Winston Churchill (Brian Cox) is wracked by guilt over his role in the Gallipoli campaign in the earlier war and its carnage. He tries to stop the invasion, fearing it will be another disaster. Fighting his depression as well as his military allies, he only has his wife Clementine (Miranda Richardson) as his private ally.
Review by Louise Keller:
There are a few scenes that resonate, but overall Jonathan Teplitzky's Churchill is a plodding affair. Taking place in the 96 hours prior to D-Day, the film feels as though it is trying to be all things to all people, weaving together the professional, personal and emotional lives of Winston Churchill: Prime Minister, husband, depressive. Little seems credible or convincing, although it could be argued that elements involving Churchill's depression are handled poetically. Performances are excellent however, with Brian Cox potent as Churchill, Miranda Richardson arresting as his wife Clementine and John Purefoy moving as King George VI.
My favourite scene is the one in which King George talks to Churchill about duty. It's a wonderful moment, when the stuttering King gently makes his cigar-chomping Prime Minister understand his place and the role he needs to embrace. Other scenes worthy of note include those between Churchill and Clementine, when the bumpy textures of their marriage are revealed.
The English country settings are beautiful and some of the pensive moments play out well. However there is little sense of the chaos that must have taken place in the war office scenes and the exchanges between Eisenhower and others feels staged. It is also difficult to imagine Churchill yelling at his typist (Ella Purnell).
Lorne Balfe's music score is memorable for all the wrong reasons. Instead of enhancing the mood and action, the music jumps out prominently, demanding our attention in the worst way. It irritates. Teplitzky, whose direction of The Railway Man (2013) resonates for its sensitivity, manages the material with care, but the result disappoints. It feels like an incomplete portrait and one fraught with historical inaccuracies.
This is one of two films about Winston Churchill. Darkest Hour (2017) stars Gary Oldman as Churchill, Kristin Scott Thomas as Clementine and Ben Mendelsohn as King George VI. It is directed by the well-credentialed Joe Wright (Atonement) and penned by Anthony McCarten (The Theory of Everything). It will make for an interesting comparison.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Perhaps the disclaimer that this film is not intended to be taken literally in every way, nor the characters to be regarded as perfect historical replicas should be placed at the start of the film, not after the end credits. That may lower the expectations and anticipations from many in the audience. This is Jonathan Teplitzky's unique essay on Winston Churchill, taking known facts and adding a kind of personal rumination about the man's struggle against fate at a crucial moment in history - and his story.
A low budget chamber work (not a single scene of war), Teplitzky is working from a screenplay by historian Alex von Tunzelmann; nevertheless, it is filled with Teplitzky's own image of the man and his powerfully supportive - if long suffering - wife. The frequent, tight close ups on both serve to reveal their turmoil and anguish over the three days of the story, including their strained relationship.
The screenplay posits that Churchill was driven by guilt and anguish over his decision to send young men to their deaths at Gallipoli, and is now on the eve of the planned invasion of France to push the Nazis out, terrified of seeing the same carnage again. This is the central motif of the film and one that is redemptive, especially in Australian eyes. The trouble is, many don't believe he had such feelings of guilt.
Irrespective, the film is interesting for its use of devices, such as the empty beach at the start and the end, with its blood stained sea washing ashore in what is clearly a fearful fantasy in Churchill's head. Teplitzky also invents large ruins of some neoclassical columns for a couple of scenes, which are not to be found in a real England, and we can make our own readings of these devices. It doesn't lessen the film's power to engage, driven by wonderful performances from all, notably Brian Cox as Churchill and Miranda Richardson as Clemmie ... not forgetting a superb cameo by James Purefoy at King George VI.
Email this article
CAST: Brian Cox, Miranda Richardson, John Slattery, James Purefoy
PRODUCER: Claudia Bluemhuber, Nick Taussig, Piers Tempest, Paul Van Carter
DIRECTOR: Jonathan Teplitzky
SCRIPT: Alex von Tunzelmann
CINEMATOGRAPHER: David Higgs
EDITOR: Chris Gill
MUSIC: Lorne Balfe
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Chris Roope
RUNNING TIME: 98 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Transmission
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: June 8, 2017