96 hours before the World War II invasion of Normandy, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill struggles with his severe reservations with Operation Overlord and his increasingly marginalized role in the war effort.
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June 1944. Allied Forces stand on the brink: a massive army is secretly assembled on the south coast of Britain, poised to re-take Nazi-occupied Europe. One man stands in their way: Winston Churchill. Behind the iconic figure and rousing speeches: a man who has faced political ridicule, military failure and a speech impediment. An impulsive, sometimes bullying personality - fearful, obsessive and hurting. Fearful of repeating, on his disastrous command, the mass slaughter of 1915, when hundreds of thousands of young men were cut down on the beaches of Gallipoli. Obsessed with fulfilling historical greatness: his destiny. Exhausted by years of war and plagued by depression, Churchill is a shadow of the hero who has resisted Hitler's Blitzkrieg. Should the D-Day landings fail, he is terrified he'll be remembered as an architect of carnage. Political opponents sharpen their knives. General Eisenhower and Field Marshal Montgomery are increasingly frustrated by Churchill's attempts to stop...
Churchill is depicted as a diminished, drooling buffoon and many who remember him as one of the great names and leaders during WWII will find this movie intolerable. At the end of the film after the credits you see some weaselly disclaimer about how the movie, although based on real people, may or may not have presented events as they really happened.
And so this movie marches on with its hit-piece agenda and the writer should be ashamed to marginalize such a noted figure with such a self-indulgent point of view. Did the writer teleport back in time and hover like Patrick Swayze in a room? Scene after scene shows Churchill as an anxious, alcoholic insecure man with no counterpoints to show him in a leadership role. I'm all for a certain angle for movies and political news shows, but this went too far and came off as an over-reach and simply an ego trip for a script.
Historical accuracy aside, the movie fails in other ways. Besides the cringe-worthy buffoon angle, the music was simply overbearing and not needed in half the scenes. I wish I had brought some noise-canceling headphones to the movie theater. Scene after scene I was praying for just the dialogue to speak for itself without the watery musical underbed to drive it. Scene after scene I was praying for silence. It's as if the music was in love with itself. Well some of us weren't.
John Slattery, who was excellent in Mad Men, was a total miscast. Slattery simply did not have the gravitas to carry the role of Eisenhower.
The movie's only saving grace was Brian Cox, answering the misguided casting call for a needy, spiraling performance of Churchill. He runs away with the role, although an unfair role at that. How much more serving and evergreen it would have been if the character given to him was not so one-sided. But Cox delivers and many of the actors in his scenes simply wither. This would be the time for a well-deserved Oscar nomination for Cox, so blistering was his distressed portrayal of Churchill. Two other actors to hold their own in the movie was Miranda Richardson, who played her role with stoic and steely grace, and the actor who played Smuts, an understated yet praiseworthy performance.
All in all if you care about history, and understand that leaders have both greatness and weakness in decision-making, this movie did not flesh out those layers. Instead it comes off slamming the persona of a historic figure.
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