Independent films arrive in theaters with little advertising on occasion. This would be that occasion. I hadn’t watched a trailer, seen a movie poster or saw a review for this film leading up to my decision to see this in the theater. In fact, after I decided to see this film, I watched the trailer on my iPhone while walking to the car, to drive to the theater, to see this film. I enjoy history so a film about World War 2 intrigued me. So did this unknown indie film about World War 2 manage to win me over? Let’s dive in and take a look at “Churchill” in this review…
I’m not sure this movie was entirely historically accurate. For an independent film it felt like there was Hollywood story telling mixed in. I mean, it felt like creative liberties were taken with the characters in a way not familiar to me in historical biopics. Curiously, for a story that takes place in the United Kingdom there were few english accents. This was vexing but it didn’t last long. Like a movie with subtitles, 5 minutes in I no longer really noticed and was enjoying the film.
Overall, this movie explores the life of Winston Churchill leading up to D-Day. We see his thoughts, his feelings and his desire to ensure that minimal casualties are had. This is a story about conflict. It’s not a story about conflict simply because it’s World War 2. It’s a story about conflict for a man, a leader, a husband and friend to the King of the England. The story examines the mental, physical and emotional impact of being a leader and (more importantly) being a leader in a time of great war. Winston (played by Brian Cox) shows us that change is inevitable and it’s not always easy to accept. Cox performed his role well. This was crucial to this film, more so than normal. The majority of screen time he occupies and if he wasn’t believable the whole movie falls apart. I’m happy to report, the movie is fine.
I didn’t find the overall story to be that compelling on screen. The actual real life story is far more compelling. The story is split between characters who felt three dimensional and two dimensional. It almost felt like the actors were instructed to act as simply as possible. Churchill, his wife, the King of England, his secretary Helen and Smuts were rich characters that gave us subtle nuance and emotions. The rest felt like they should be performing in a made for tv movie instead of an independent film.
Overall, the movie isn’t great but the story we go on with Churchill is. I personally enjoyed the examination of a man who has been a fighter and leader his whole life and now in the autumn of his years, he is faced with the reality that he must adapt and change his leadership style. We take this journey the entire film. It’s not until the finale of the movie that we see his transformation and because of that I enjoyed his story. It’s complex. Here is a man who is hellbent on avoiding storming the beaches because of the number of soldiers who will die. This is enough to warrant his behavior but Cox delivers a performance that suggests much more. There’s layers to his stubbornness. He isn’t stubborn for the sake of being stubborn. It turns out he’s not so much stubborn but reluctant because of the guilt he carries with him from a similar strike he ordered that resulted in mass casualty. He doesn’t want to relive that loss and be responsible for the deaths of young soldiers and because of that, he is conflicted. He is layered and complex. It was brilliant. By the end of the film I didn’t see his character as a stubborn old man who refused to work with the allies in defeating the Nazis. I saw him as a man at war with himself for never forgiving himself and carrying the weight of loss for so long on his shoulders.
“Churchill” is in theaters now. You can skip this movie in theaters. If you enjoy character study films this is worth the time on Redbox or VOD. If not, you probably won’t enjoy it much. It’s not a long film but it’s slow and methodical. I did enjoy the journey we go on with Churchill but the overall movie did little for me. Also, if you enjoy historical movies this does little to tickle your fancy. You don’t need to know much about World War 2 to appreciate this and you won’t learn much about the war either, in case you already don’t.