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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Allied – Box Office Review

It’s officially the season for those dramatic films that are shooting for the glory of “Oscar” winner. We are treated to the best character pieces that examine what it means to be human in certain scenarios and challenges us to examine our thoughts and feelings on the topic. Would we do the same thing? Would we act differently? Can we identify or do we fall back in disgust? So let’s dive in and take a look at “Allied” in this box office review…

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First, a film staring Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard is getting my attention. From the first movie trailer I knew I would be in the theater to see this one on the big screen. Plus, we add Jared Harris as a secondary supporting character to Brad Pitt and it’s almost a guarantee the acting will be something special. I was not disappointed. In fact, the story itself was an incredible surprise but more on that later. At opening we meet Brad Pitt’s character and a cab driver. The cab driver was good. I’m telling you folks, even the mostly silent, almost non present, ancillary characters are good. This film doesn’t waste any talent and takes it’s time with each moment they are on screen. Whether the characters are exchanging pithy banter to help add depth to the characters backstories, making them more human, or adding conflict, each moment was calculated and surprising in positive ways for me. Even the short scene where Pitt is leading a small subversive group into the heart of a Nazi German held city center, I bought into it all.

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The story was a big surprise for me. I knew from the trailers that the main struggle would be Pitt discovering out if his wife, and mother of his only child, was a Nazi spy or not. However, even knowing that, I did not know how well the story would constantly build tension from start to finish. This is not an exaggeration, the tension builds from the time we see Pitt grab his gun in the very first scene to the finale at the military air base. There are brief little breaks of tension but they don’t last long and it’s building, building, building all over again. The surprises in characters, not knowing 100% who is a spy and who isn’t until the very end, it’s all one great mental and emotional puzzle that pays off at the end.

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The most fascinating thing about this story, for me, is that it’s all about Marion Cotillard. Yes, there are two main characters but you must pay close attention to the writing and how Cotillard delivers her lines to truly grasp the quality of this film by the time the finale unveils the answer to the mystery. A woman who, seemingly or genuinely, has a fondness for her husband and daughter, is leading us on through a maze of possibilities and I loved it. The discussion about what her “truth” is can be had at length after watching the film while it’s much clearer understanding for what “truth” was to the character Brad Pitt played. Cotillard was dangerous but innocent. She was revealing but secretive. She played this character to perfection in my opinion and I couldn’t be happier with her performance.

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Allied” is in theaters now! If you enjoy character drama films than I recommend this film on the big screen. If you love Oscar contenders I also recommend this film. If you enjoy the main characters I mentioned above, I recommend this movie. I walked out of the theater so pleased with what I just saw and I didn’t think twice about the cost of the ticket. This was a truly engaging film. The story is told so well that even after all is revealed and the credits roll, you still can discuss the film in length and learn more about it.

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