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film criticism by maryann johanson | since 1997

Churchill movie review: stumbling over truth

Churchill red light

MaryAnn’s quick take…

This low-stakes, emotionally limp portrait may be intended to humanize a towering, almost mythic figure, but instead just needles and undercuts him.tweet
I’m “biast” (pro): love the cast
I’m “biast” (con): nothing
(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)

A ticking-clock thriller following Winston Churchill in the 96 hours before D-Day” is how you may see this film being sold. Don’t believe it. A portrait of the British Prime Minister in the days before the launch of the Allied invasion of Normandy in June 1944, Churchill could, if we’re being generous, be called intimate and leisurely, which even so hardly makes for an exciting time at the movies. But the film is more fairly deemed small scale, low stakes, and emotionally limp. Historian Alex von Tunzelmann, making her screenwriting debut, explores Churchill’s (Brian Cox: Morgan) well-documented opposition to D-Day, a position that is at odds with his reputation as one of the great political heroes of World War II… and thought it appears that the film may be intended to humanize a towering, almost mythic figure, it comes across more as a needling way to undercut him. “The Untold Story of D-Day” — as Churchill’s subtitle goes — is mostly just about how the politician felt about invasion plans that he had no strategic input on and no standing to forestall; he seems to have opposed D-Day partly because they reminded him of on-the-surface similar campaigns he was involved in during WWI that went badly wrong, and he worried about his future reputation if this one went wrong; and partly due to his depression and alcohol abuse (which we’d probably see today as self-medicating) that led him to alternately lash out and zonk out, withdrawing to sulk alone. Director Jonathan Teplitzky (The Railway Man) doesn’t seem to know how to restrain Cox’s histrionics… or perhaps he encouraged them in an attempt to lend more weight to a story that has little of its own. The result is a movie that doesn’t so much run out of steam but never develops any in the first place.tweet

Click here for my ranking of this and 2017’s other releases.

red light 2 stars

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Churchill (2017) | directed by Jonathan Teplitzky
US/Can release: Jun 02 2017
UK/Ire release: Jun 16 2017

MPAA: rated PG for thematic elements, brief war images, historical smoking throughout, and some language
BBFC: rated PG (mild bad language, scenes of smoking)

viewed at home on a small screen

official site | IMDb | trailer
more reviews: Movie Review Query Engine | Rotten Tomatoes

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