This historical drama is an account of the early life of British politician Winston Churchill (Simon Ward), including his childhood years, his time as a war correspondent in Africa, and ... See full summary »
Winston Churchill was no doubt a giant of a man who will never be forgotten; truly one of the great figures of the Second World War. This portrayal of him, however, seems to dwell more on his limitations than on his strengths. As the title would imply, the focus is on Churchill the military leader - there's precious little to be found of Churchill the inspirational orator, who kept up the spirits of the British people when all seemed hopeless. There's a small number of snippets (and very short ones) from some of his speeches, but nothing at all from his great "we shall never surrender" speech after the fall of France. No, the focus is on Churchill the soldier, and it really isn't a very flattering portrayal.
Actually, the thing that kept coming into my mind was how "Hitlerian" Churchill seemed in this regard. Unable to confine himself to the diplomatic or even overall strategic side of the conflict, Churchill constantly inserted himself into operational matters, argued with and often overruled his generals, sacked those who disagreed with him, and focused on objectives of limited strategic value (shown most powerfully by his insistence on invading and occupying the Greek Aegean islands against the wishes of the Americans, only to have to turn to the Americans for help when his plan didn't work out.) Just as Hitler was seemingly fixated on proving to his generals that a former corporal deserved to be their leader, so was Churchill striving to overcome a past that raised doubts - as the Americans astutely noted in observing that Churchill's fixation with the Mediterranean at the expense of Operation Overlord was really an attempt to redeem strategic mistakes he had made during World War I.
Timothy West was convincing as Churchill - but in a limited way, since he didn't have to match Churchill's oratory in this role. He does manage to portray a man both arrogant and sometimes child-like, concerned with his historical legacy and totally convinced of his own abilities, even if few others were. The casting of the various American characters was more problematic. Joseph Cotten handled the role of George Marshall fairly well, but I thought Arthur Hill as FDR and Richard Dysart as Eisenhower were both lacking somewhat. This is a made-for-TV docudrama, and definitely shows that, both in its sets, its overall production values and even its music, so one can't look for something the quality of a big screen epic. I liked the look at this side of Churchill, though, and overall found this very interesting. 7/10
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