Churchill – Film Review
Director: Jonathan Teplitzky
Writer: Alex von Tunzelmann
Stars: Brian Cox, Miranda Richardson, John Slattery
Churchill, Roosevelt and the other leaders of the Allies had long been planning the invasion of France as the Second World War continued relentlessly. It was to be an amphibian attack supported by naval and air support. Because of this, it was dependent on favourable weather conditions. The preparation for the invasion had been years in the planning with the latter stages requiring the creation of two floating harbours to be towed across the Channel to the Normandy beaches so as to permit the invaders bring in the necessary supplies for the offensive once the initial attacks had secured the beachheads. It was an extraordinary feat of planning, imagination and courage in which many people were involved. Churchill had been a major proponent behind an amphibious attack in the First World War which was the Gallipoli assault… it was a disaster.
In order to give this film some dramatic bite, Teplitzky and the script writer have Churchill during the last four days before the planned Normandy invasion (D-Day) being visited by doubts inspired by his memories of the Gallipoli catastrophe. Teplitzky has Churchill trying to persuade the other leaders in these last moments using all his skills to call it off. While no doubt there were many discussions as to how to proceed in the weeks, months and years prior to June 1944, it is fanciful to believe those doubts played a prominent part in the discussion in the last 96 hours before the invasion. The one unknown factor was the weather. It could have scuppered everything.
As the premise of “Churchill” is so far from reality it can only be judged as fiction. On that basis there are splendid acting performances by Brian Cox as Churchill and Miranda Richardson as his long suffering wife Clementine. There are marvellous backdrops of English great houses, fine motor cars and smart military uniforms. There is much drinking by Churchill of spirits poured into cut glass tumblers from equally fine cut decanters. There is a great deal of cigar smoke. It is all rather manicured for a country enduring the fifth year of a devastating war.
At the end, the credits put the Normandy landings into context with some facts including the well-known fact that the Allies won the war in 1945. The film is an unsatisfactory alliance of fact and fiction.