First law of a biopic film, choose a figure who has a struggle to overcome. In that sense, you can’t go wrong with Britain’s most renowned and all round influential prime minister because he obviously has the war to overcome, right? Wrong, in the case of Johnathan Teplitzky’s Churchill, in fact to look at it as the war being the key obstacle for Winnie to scale is only scratching the surface on what is a character driven film that is brave enough to have an imposing historical event like D-Day kept on the sidelines only to be brought on when the character of Churchill is to be developed.
If you were like me and saw this film with a clean slate, the you’ll be pleasantly surprised that Churchill is incredibly dramatic and intense. This intensity is down to the performance given by Brian Cox as Churchill. The billowy voice when he delivers his dialogue matches the intensity of the feeling of the character. We’ve never seen Churchill in a case where he is treated at meat in the room amongst the allied forces with Dwight Eisenhower (John Slattery) being the ringleader in this. It very might well be the most intense performance of the year.
The character of Churchill is very well-developed and fleshed out and by the end of the film you’ll instantly recognise the shift in character. He starts out as the prime minister we all know from history class as this imposing authority figure wanting to do his bit and have his say whilst also wanting to be more of a military commander to the allies’ troops, by the end he starts to embrace his role as a prime minister, giving hope to the people of Britain that they can win the war. There is no immediate shift, the screenwriter Alex von Tunzelmann lets his change slowly and gradually lay the foundations until Churchill is at the height of ignorance. Having a historical figure like Churchill, who has been portrayed in various films and TV series, gives the writer easy material to work with, but it is an admirable step to ignore the influence of these portrayals and so something entirely your own.
A character who surprised me the most is Churchill’s new secretary Helen (Ella Purnell). At the films commencement, she is the audience character, her feelings are one that the filmmakers have predicted the audience will feel. Normally these types of characters have no major role films, there are there to translate the audience constant reaction to events, in the case of Churchill in one sharp turn she instantaneously has an emotional attachment to the story, a move that no audience member would expect. Helen’s character treatment is a prime example of background characters becoming larger than life and promotes them to having an active role in the film.
At the centre of Churchill is the care that has been put into carefully framing each shot. You can tell the films cinematographer David Higgs has carefully about where characters would stand and how to give clarity in their emotions through various shots. When the film uses close-ups on Churchill, his pain and stress about the operation overlord is translated with great clarity. I’d recommend this film to and aspiring cinematographer to study up on capturing the ferocity of actor’s performances.
One of my wishes is that the film could have expanded on the relationship between Churchill and his wife Clementine (Miranda Richardson). Each character had a carefully crafted connection to Churchill yet the connection with his wife felt a little underdeveloped. It wasn’t bad, but when you say to yourself that you want to look deeper into their marriage, the film doesn’t take that extra step, nevertheless, the performances with the material and information given to the audience were still very good and with class.
The narrative can become a little too repetitive as Churchill seems to go from meeting to meeting with the leaders of the allies. I understand that looking at Winston active involvement in operation overlord is crucial to his self realisation, however these meeting can become droll very quickly and is what director Teplitzky missed out so he could keep the audiences devout focus on the film.
Churchill is very likely to fly under people’s radar this summer, which is a shame because they are missing out on a film packed with dramatic performances and credible craftsmanship. Brian Cox leads the charge on a great cast and performance of the old British bulldog himself (not that one). Churchill once again shows how masterful the British film industry can be with the right creative minds and those willing to dare.
Final Result: 8/10 – Very Good
Have you seen Churchill? What did you think? Please let me know your thoughts and opinions in the comments below.
Next Time: Transformers: The Last Knight