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Churchill ( again)

Yesterday when I did the morning supermarket shop and was looking for the over-priced ink cartridges for my printer, I passed the DVDs displayed which only reminded me how disconnected I am from modern cinema. However I saw a DVD of Churchill – starring Brian Cox and Miranda Richardson – and duly bought it. I was interested to see how Brian Cox’s portrayal of Churchill differed from Gary Oldman’s.

This film is set in the few days of preparation prior to D-Day. According to the film’s historian and writer Alex von Tunzelmann Churchill was implacably opposed to an amphibious landing because of the inevitable loss of lives.

This film too has a feminist makeover. Churchill was supposedly reliant on Clemmie to get him through his depression. True Churchill suffered from the ‘black dog’ and he was many things, but a family man he was not.

There is also his pretty secretary who shakes him up.

What will we have next? A version of Life with Brian in which Barbara Clough gives the Derby and Forest team talks? Even better, could we have a film about Boudicea in which her male partner takes the reins of the chariot; or in which the Earl Of Essex gives Queen Elizabeth a stiff shot of Malmsey to steady her nerves before the Armada; or Florence Nightingale’s partner doing the dressings in the Crimea?

Brian Cox, like his fellow Scot Sean Connery, never quite loses his accent and convinced me less than Gary Oldman.

Robert Durden as General Smuts

Robert Durden I liked the best as General Smuts.

The film had reasonable tempo but, aside from the exaggerated female roles, there are other glaring inaccuracies.

It was Field Marshal Montgomery who did not get along with Eisenhower though you saw no tension here.

There was tremendous pressure on the Allies from the Russians to open up a second front. Churchill must have been aware of this but it’s never mentioned.

The film had an Australian director (Jonathan Teplitzky) and those who have been to Australia will know how deeply the country still feels about their losses sustained at Gallipoli. It is possible it did weigh on Churchill but if so how does this square with the Dieppe raid two years earlier when 3,000 Canadians died ?

The film seems to suggest that we don’t know that Churchill suffered from self-doubt and depression. This is well documented not least by himself and his doctor Lord Moran.

So my conclusion on this film is that it told us quite a lot which may never have happened and quite a lot which we knew anyway.

About Neil Rosen

Neil went to the City of London School and Manchester University graduating with a 1st in economics. After a brief stint in accountancy, Neil emigrated to a kibbutz In Israel. His articles on the burgeoning Israeli film industry earned comparisons to Truffaut and Godard in Cahiers du Cinema. Now one of the world's leading film critics and moderators at film Festivals Neil has written definitively in his book Kosher Nostra on Jewish post war actors. Neil lives with his family in North London. More Posts