Churchill follows one of the most recognizable prime ministers in the history of the United Kingdom, Winston Churchill (Brain Cox), in the few days before the Allied forces invade the western front of the war. With D-Day fast approaching, Churchill begins to question the validity of the invasion, claiming that it is too risky and may very well cause the deaths of thousands of Allied soldiers and French civilians. Churchill airs these concerns to the generals of the Allied forces, including U.S. General Dwight D. Eisenhower (John Slattery), to no avail. Thus, Churchill must struggle to deal with his own mental and physical ailments while the overbearing stress of an invasion that could change the course of the war looms overhead.
Churchill represents a type of low-budget biopic that has to focus very specifically on its script and characters in order to achieve greatness. The scale is lowered because of the tightness of the film’s budget, so attention to detail in terms of the quality of the script and acting is paramount. Unfortunately for the film, the story flounders as it tries to grasp the breadth of the story with some type of intimacy. While the performances are not bad and the script occasionally achieves a moment of capturing the horrors of Winston Churchill’s stress and strain, it feels overdramatic and cheap for the majority of the film. I feel less so like I am watching a movie meant for the theaters and more like a historic reenactment on the History channel with some over-zealous actors trying to add their own flair.
Brian Cox’s performance as the titular character is perplexing in how often it waivers from good to over-the-top and campy. I can tell that he is trying to bring a grand nature to the troubled leader, but his performance mostly comes off as overwhelmingly goofy. This is no more apparent than in a scene where he kneels at his bedside, praying that a storm will come to further delay the invasion plan. This scene should feel like an intimate dive into the mind of the character, but is written and performed more like a war speech that a thoughtful, private moment.
And that’s how the whole film feels, cheaply grand. It lacks the production value to be a grand war epic, and also lacks the subtle and creative writing to make it an intimate film about a war hero. What we ended up getting here is a film that doesn’t understand what it is, and that works to the films detriment throughout its run-time. While the movie isn’t necessarily bad in a lot of aspects, it is quite unremarkable in almost every way.