‘History is usually written by the victors’ is an often used phrase. World War 2 saw many winners and losers with history rewritten to suit narratives. Among the many scribbled words have been those about British wartime Prime Minister Winston Churchill. At times an untouchable hero to villainous albatross, opinions about him have been polarising. Churchill provides a different slant on a crucial historical figure. Portrayed neither as monster or saint, Churchill successfully dives under the skin of an enigmatic man still affecting opinions.
In June 1944, World War 2 stands at a crossroads. With allied forces assembled on Britain’s south coast ready to regain control of Nazi occupied Europe, they await orders from Prime Minister Churchill (Brian Cox). Haunted by memories of failed decisions causing mass casualties in the First World War, Churchill’s indecision to commence the D-Day landings causes conflict. The only person Churchill confides in is his wife Clementine (Miranda Richardson). Her advice proves crucial in creating the legacy Churchill needs to fulfil his destiny as one of history’s true leaders.
Churchill is an engaging portrait of a complex person. A dogmatic, bombastic bully and then a shining beacon of reason, the multi-facets of his persona are effectively realised. The decisions he had to make would have been ones that no normal person would want. Standing up to his more gung-go colleagues and his efforts at political diplomacy bring a startling insight to an important moment in history. Brian Cox delivers an acceptable performance as Churchill even if it feels more caricatured than truly authentic.
Whilst the performances are uniformly fine, with Miranda Richardson excellent as Churchill’s wife, there doesn’t seem much to the overall story. Scenes feel unnecessarily padded out with the screenplay repeating itself several times. Perhaps had the film explored Churchill’s entire reign during World War 2 there may have been more narrative bite. There doesn’t seem enough to fill the run-time although what’s in it is fascinating. The cinematography ably papers over any extended sequences with some very striking visuals.
Churchill may change opinions about the fabled war-time leader. Whatever the feelings about him, it can’t be denied how heavy the weight of the nation must have been. That he saw it through is a measure of his personal strength with people now able to watch his actions in the free society he fought hard to retain.
Reviewed by Patrick Moore
Rating out of 10: 6