Arguably the greatest British man who ever lived this film is about the days leading up to D-Day and has Brian Cox as a deeply conflicted Churchill haunted by a previous calamitous decision from the First World War. We find him standing alone on a beach (waiting to fight them?) with the sea red with blood lapping at his feet. It’s only his wife Clementine played by Miranda Richardson in a slightly underwritten role who brings him back to reality. It won’t be the only time and from this moment of introspection it’s back to business as he meets with Generals Eisenhower & Montgomery all pressing him to make the decision to launch D-Day. Fearing a bloodbath he blocks the operation to the frustration of the military. It’s this battle with not just the generals but his conscience and the consequences of a wrong decision that makes up the bulk of the film with Cox, who despite the best efforts of the make up department is hardly a lookee likee for Churchill, is magnificent playing the Prime Minister as jocular yet grumpy, friendly but irascible none more so than when he unfairly unleashes his wrath on a secretary only for his wife Clementine to rein him in and reprimand his behaviour. It’s his relationship with these two women that is captivating. Churchill is a man under fire on all sides as the military urge him to action yet a King George who, in a moving scene, backs the prime ministers reticence to launch D Day. Ultimately though the decision lies with him and his isolation is emphasised throughout with him often seen standing alone in long shot in open spaces or silhouetted against huge palatial windows and there are directional flourishes where soft focus shots are pulled into sharp detail as he begins to formulate his eventual decision.
Puffing on a cigar, smoke billowing around him like a dragon about to enter a battle Cox is great but scenes with his wife, King George and his secretary, who has hr own reasons for wanting him to go with the military’s decision, all show him as only too human raging with internal conflict. Perhaps the films only issue is that for a cinema released film this plays like a decent BBC Sunday night drama rather than a big screen experience as there is no spectacle her only drama albeit with a uniformly good cast.
Here’s the trailer…….