Churchill (aka Warlord) review by Mark McPherson - Cinema Paradiso
I truly feel sorry for Brian Cox. He is such an accomplished supporting actor and really deserves a lot of credit. Here he is handed a very meaty role of playing Winston Churchill, a historical figure perfectly suited for his gruff and grump old-man persona. It’s unfortunate that this performance had to come out during the same year as The Darkest Hour, the film where Gary Oldman delivered the performance of his career by escaping entirely into the role of Churchill. Overshadowed, Cox may be overlooked when he really should be given some credit for putting forth such an amazing effort. But, much like Oldman’s film, Churchill is entirely dependent on Cox to hold the fort and he’s only one man who can only do so much.
I’m surprised that Cox didn’t just decide to pull this performance off as a stage production considering the entire film has him shuffling around, bickering and feuding on the road to D-Day. And yet the film feels highly limited to the extent it wants to cover with Churchill. We mostly see the man either muttering to himself, shouting down others, and slipping into depression. All of this is well within the range of Cox’s acting expertise and it’s pretty impressive to watch him stroll easily down these paths for portraying the iconic man.
But the film seems to have too much faith in Cox’s performance to hold it up. As a result, the film becomes somewhat muddled with staging history in order to grant more creative license for Cox to shine. In this essence, the film becomes troublesome to feel more like it is being Churchill written for Cox than Cox written for Churchill. Such stirred story elements of the man feeling like he was in a mental battle of worrying about casualties, communicated through a scene of a beach with waves of blood, comes off as making Churchill seem almost too human, as though he were a pathetic politician struggling to make his voice heard. He dwells on the troubles of World War I almost as much as the film dwells on his character's flaws as opposed to his politics.
I really don’t want to compare Churchill to the likes of The Darkest Mind but what choice do I have here? Can anyone really distance themselves considering how well The Darkest Hour took aim at the political sensations that coursed through Churchill’s very being? True, The Darkest Hour does take its own creative license to make the man seem more of the people than the cranky coot who made tough calls. But where that film soared at its best was conceiving an attitude and a drive for Churchill to plow through with courage and vigor. Here, Churchill seems far too weak and fragile, like a broken man past his prime and always terrified of the past repeating itself in his nightmares.
The film itself is worth a viewing for the performance of Cox who owns this film with all its clunky direction, historical inaccuracies, and pacing problems. But if you’re looking for a film with a much more profound perspective on Winston Churchill, The Darkest Hour has this watered down version beat.