Churchill – Review

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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…

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Box Office Review: Bridge of Spies

If the goal was to create a film as intense as the previews, the mark was missed. If the goal was to make a dramatic character study piece that involves ideals and convictions while focusing on real life events in a Cold War world, success! “Bridge of Spies” is masterfully directed by Steven Spielberg, which in all honesty is no surprise, and is brought to life by Tom Hanks and so many other talented actors. It should also be noted that the script was written by Matt Charman and the Coen Brothers. How much more talent is necessary? None. Thankfully there’s more talent throughout the entire film which made it feel like the audience was being spoiled. This isn’t a complaint it’s merely an observation… a pleasant observation.

The synopsis on the films IMDB page reads as follows: “An American lawyer is recruited by the CIA during the Cold War to help rescue a pilot detained in the Soviet Union.” The story is pretty simple, right? No arguing that point here but it’s the nuances that complicate things for these characters. There’s moments of intense dialogue and then moments of humor to keep things light in very dark and trying times. The level of realism felt by even minor characters, who aren’t named but described in the credits, take this story to the next level.

Take a moment to consider that in America during this time hatred for Communists/Soviets/Russian’s was unprecedented. A common slogan heard in America was “Better dead than Red” referring to communist Russia and anyone from there. Now imagine being so convicted in the American justice system and the United States constitution that you are willing to defend a communist. A communist who is believed to be a Soviet spy working against your country’s best interest, and the interest of its citizens. Pretty intense, right? Absolutely this story is intense but even in dark times some of these characters find some light and provide some chuckles.

This is a film that can not only be watched but also appreciated. The characters are so rich and full that their time on screen keeps you transfixed on that moment. Their personality quirks and physical ticks show each actor paid attention to who they were portraying and created an art form out of acting, like any good actor will do. It’s acting done well and it allows the audience to identify with these characters, each for different reasons at different times. At no time is the audience expected to sympathize with Rudolph Abel, the suspected Soviet spy, but Mark Rylance does an excellent job bringing to life a character you don’t necessarily hate. The back and forth dialogue Tom Hanks and he engage in was one of the high points of this film. These characters were so different but similar in that they both stood for something and found common ground in that fact.

If you have the cash and the time this is a film worth seeing on the big screen. The East Berlin scenes after the wall goes up certainly will be more enjoyable on a theater big screen than any TV at home. This is even a film that is date night appropriate. So if you got someone you fancy this film might even make you appear more cultured. So that’s a positive. At not point has a story ever appeared in Cosmo or GQ lamenting the prospect of dating someone cultured. So try and keep this film in mind when you think you might enjoy something more substantial than say, any Rob Schneider film. Save those types of films for Redbox nights at home with a 6 pack and cold pizza.

“Bridge of Spies” is in theaters now. Two American thumbs up!

Comment below if you’ve already seen it and share your thoughts. Join in on the fun of movie watching and be sure to share this post with anyone who you feel would enjoy another Box Office Review.

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Our Story, Our Impact, Our History.

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“We are not makers of history. We are made by history.” Martin Luther King, Jr.

I communicate with people a great deal on a regular basis. What has come from this has been an outlook on life that paints a portrait of assorted colors and shapes. Had I the skill to create such a painting one might call it abstract in its appearance. Layers of colors, each layer revealing more shades than previously thought and by the finale’ one might go crossed eyed. I can hear the question being asked on whether or not extreme focus is necessary or if perhaps one should allow themselves to go cross eyed to see the vision I had created. After an enjoyable laugh I would encourage everyone to relax and enjoy themselves. I would explain to them that in order to see my vision in that painting they would need to take a moment and get to know those around them. Perhaps they see something beautiful or maybe they see an expression of pain or angst. The painting would reveal to them what their shared experiences had provided them. It would show them a reflection of what they were. In all, it would describe a world that has already been written and continues to redraft its ideas.

The history we are blessed with continues to reshape our thoughts and lives. We draw upon its experience when we find ourselves struggling to comprehend our current direction and purpose. We look to the past to find reason. We hope that we might find comfort. We reassure ourselves with its success. We shy away from its failures. We cherish it. We fear it. We also never seem to learn from it even though we study it. It’s our story.

It’s my hope for you, the reader, to see within yourself a great story. Perhaps your journey in life has been blessed. Perhaps it has been a struggle. Just maybe you’ve done your best to withdraw and enjoy a more private lifestyle. Whatever the case, this is your time to relive the stories of the past. This is your moment to realize someone else has gone before you and endured a similar tale. You are never alone when you realize the path you walk has thousands of foot steps that have already paved the way. There is an unspoken connection we all have, both alive and dead. This is why you feel connected to complete strangers you hear about that have a similar tale. It’s experience, shared experience in life, that can unite us all. Reach out and communicate with someone for it might surprise you what you discover. There is a beauty in life that is shared through experience and if history has taught us anything it is that one experience won’t end your story… it might bless it however.