Rated PG. Running time: 1 hr. 45 min.
Our content ratings: Violence 4; Language 3; Sex/Nudity -2.
Our star rating (1-5): 1.5
Not having seen any of the other films directed by Jonathan Teplitzky, I am unable to judge him as a filmmaker. But after seeing this purportedly history-based film, I think he should sue scriptwriter Alex von Tunzelmann for incompetence if he wants to maintain his professional reputation. And the fine actors Brian Cox and Miranda Richardson, who play Winston and his wife Clementine Churchill, should get their publicists to put out the story that they were somehow forced to play the characters in a film that defames one of the most famous and revered Briton of all time.
We are supposed to believe that 3 days before Operation Overlord the depressed, guilt-wracked Prime Minister met with General Eisenhower and Field Marshall Montgomery urging them to call off the mightiest assault in history because he was convinced that it would end in failure, as had the Battle of Gallipoli during World War One. There is even a scene the next night in which he kneels beside his bed and prays to God that the bad weather that has already delayed the operation (originally planned for June 5th but now set for the next day) will continue. The prayer is steeped in Churchillian rhetoric! (“Please, please, please let it pour tomorrow. Let the heavens open and a deluge burst forth such as has never been seen in the English Channel. Let the sea churn into peaks and troughs and tidal waves!”)
Two or three years earlier Churchill had indeed been against an invasion of western France. It was the disaster of the failed Allied landing on Turkey’s coast at Gallipoli that haunted him because he was the leader in charge of it. (For Peter Weir’s film on this see bloody failure see my review of Gallipoli.) But the PM had come around to point of view of the generals and by 1944 was a strong advocate of what was dubbed Operation Overlord.
Brian Cox plays the British PM as if he were a doddering old man entering dementia, driven by his guilt over the failure of the WW 1 expedition to Gallipoli that he had planned and which ended disastrously with the useless deaths of thousands of troops on the shore of Turkey. And despite the published letters of this period sent to the PM by wife Clementine asserting her affection, we are led to believe by an almost luridly dramatic scene that during this three-day period before the Invasion of France she was packing her suitcase and planning to leave him because of his bad treatment of her.
I could go on and on, but instead, refer you to the article by Churchill biographer Andrew Roberts in Heathstreet Movie Biopic Gets Nearly Everything Wrong in which the historian points out that in about every way but the date of the Normandy invasion, June 6, the filmmakers mangle their history. What were they thinking when they made this? I know that if it is a choice between dramatic story and historical accuracy filmmakers always side with story, a good example being the play/film 1776, in which Thomas Jefferson’s lovely wife Martha makes a fictional visit to Philadelphia to visit her long absent husband, but the accumulation of so many errors render this film useless. Well mostly. There is a moving scene between Churchill and King George in which the monarch is obviously struggling to suppress his infamous stuttering that reminded me of a far better film, The King’s Speech.
No discussion questions for this turkey!