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Churchill (2/10)

by Tony Medley

Runtime 104 minutes

OK for children.

This long, slow, boring, talky film directed by Jonathan Teplizky based on an original screenplay by Alex von Tunzelmann who is identified as a “British historian,” posits that British Prime Minister Winston Churchill (Brian Cox) was in a knockdown drag out battle with Gen. Dwight Eisenhower (John Slattery) in opposition to Eisenhower’s plan to invade Europe at Normandy in June 1944. I can find no authority for this.

Churchill and Eisenhower did have a dispute about Eisenhower’s desire to extend a diplomatic blackout beyond the day of the invasion. Churchill adamantly opposed this and wrote Eisenhower a frank letter stating his reasons. Churchill also opposed a speech Eisenhower wanted to deliver to the German people, telling him it would be, “ineffective and look like begging before we have won the battle.” He continued by saying, “I could also show that we are not telling the truth to these people.” He would probably say the same things to Teplizky and von Tunzelmann about this film were he still here.

But this film would have its audience believe that Churchill actively fought the invasion up to and including the morning that it occurred, claiming that he feared another disaster like the battle of Gallipoli in World War I for which Churchill took the blame.

The film pictures Churchill as a drunken, mentally ill Prime Minister who was looked down upon and mocked behind his back by all his subordinates, but who was bolstered by his wife Clementine (Miranda Richardson).

There are lots of scenes that are clearly sheer imagination, like one that is almost laughable where Churchill on his knees alone in his room speechifies to God, and many showing private conversations between him and Clementine that are undoubtedly mere conjecture. Tunzelmann claims that she concocted the story based mostly on the diaries of Lord Allenbrooke (Danny Webb), who, according to Tunzelmann, “was sharply critical of his behavior in those weeks and months beforehand, commenting on his undue influence, his excessive drinking and his failing energy levels.” But nowhere does she cite any authority for the idea that Churchill vigorously and violently opposed the invasion up until the last minute as pictured here, and I can find none.

As an aside that has nothing to do with the film, IMDB has a huge blooper in that it identifies the name of the character played by Webb as “Allen Brooke” rather than Lord Allenbrooke.

Teplizky and Tunzelmann go to lengths to falsify the facts, even admitting that two early morning meetings among Ike and his staff on June 4 and 5 trying to decide whether or not the weather would allow them to invade were not attended by Churchill, even though their film shows him in attendance. There seems no reason to do this other than to tarnish Churchill with something that did not occur.

The film is also burdened by a maudlin score and an ending that seems to go on almost forever. This is a vindictive calumny not a paean to a great man who almost singlehandedly stood up and opposed Hitler when it looked like all was lost. It is shameful with no raison d’être, but is typical of the effete British bluebloods who cast Churchill into oblivion in the 1930s and still obviously hate him.