Director Jonathan Teplitzky paints a stunning portrait of the tense moments leading up to the D-Day Landings, and the immense personal cost of what it means to be a leader.
An intimate and sometimes unflattering portrayal of a man who was as flawed as he was brilliant, Churchill showcases the infamous rage tempered by a fear of needlessly dooming thousands of young men. Brian Cox brings a masterful nuance to this iconic character, introducing us to his legendary temper and depressions, which are permeated by brief flickers of indecision and childish humour. These subtle vulnerabilities become the focal point for the film, where the shadowy presence of mental illness is constant and cloying.
An outstanding soundtrack, paired with the delightful British vistas and architecture, will give most period drama fanatics the chills. There is an attention to detail with the set dressing and costuming that helps enforce this picture as a visual delight that will be cherished by history buffs, and makes up for the script falling into the trap of overusing Churchill’s commanding way with words.
With each scene heavy in grandeur and importance this gloriously beautiful profile of a man errs dangerously on becoming a rather verbose shrine, reinforced by the significant amount of screen time dedicated to pensive staring, strained looks and billowing cigar smoke, a gratuitous choice considering the accomplished cast. Churchill’s wife Clementine, in particular, portrayed by the charming Miranda Richardson, sometimes feels peripheral to the plot, despite playing a powerful role in his life, the war and his struggle to overcome an unrecognised mental illness.
There’s also an interesting allusion to Winston’s “black dog” being closer akin to bipolar disorder, and his virtually catatonic state after the ships are launched generates a much-needed vulnerability. It’s spoilt slightly, however, by Ella Purnell’s cliched spunky secretary, whose emotional outburst, while justified, is an inappropriate but apparently effective way of somehow rousing someone from a deep depression in seconds.
Tensions aren’t as high as they could be, with the stakes being a known variable to most viewers. In spite of this, we’re treated to Cox at his finest with a rousing speech deeply associated with war-time camaraderie, a necessary reminder of friendship in our own trying times.
Churchill is released nationwide on 16th June 2017.
Watch the trailer for Churchill here: