Friday, January 19, 2018


The Actors Shine Bright 

3 stars

Mini Review:

We've all seen Dunkirk, and although it was visually and musically spectacular, it went into the realm of fantasy more than giving us the horrific reality of war. This film is like a prequel to Dunkirk as well as a brilliant portrayal of a man who was universally hated. Acting with prosthetics has become a 'thing', but to be able to cut through the hatred for the character and become an inspiring figure makes for a great film.

Main Review: 

The film is set in the middle of World War II, where Western Europe is shown woefully ill-equipped to fight the ruthless Nazi war machine. Their air strikes are deadly and their army is remorseless. Their Navy has all but decimated every other allied warship and is ruling the seas as well. In such a setting, a WWII freak like yours truly is taken to the British Parliament where politics take center stage. Clement Atlee, the Prime Minister has just lost the vote of confidence and they are all dreading the choice: Winston Churchill. 

Now Indians have a horrible history with Churchill. After all, he didn't care at all about us, and hoped that the Bengal famine would wipe us 'vermins' out, so walking into an almost biopic made the Indian part of me hope they would have made him out to be hateful as well.

It isn't.

Gary Oldman makes you smile with his joy of discovering the two meanings of the Victory sign, makes you mad when he is rude to Lily James who plays his secretary, makes you wish your loved ones were gentle the way he softens when he shares a sweet moment or two with his wife (Kirsten Scott Thomas who is just brilliant in her not so big role). I enjoyed watching his political opponents squirm, and I wish I knew more about him and the foxy Viscount Halifax and Neville Chamberlain. I wanted to read more about how he thought, what he really cared for when I was watching the film. What about Cicero and Shakespeare that drove Winston Churchill's statesmanship. What were his patriotic ideals? 

We see Churchill turn the tide around when he manages to cleverly manipulates the parliament, knowing full well how they hate his guts. He has a reputation that he wakes up with Scotch, has Champagne with lunch and ends the day with Scotch again, and consumes wine in the middle of the day while smoking cigars non-stop. The King hates offering him the Prime-Ministership because he has ruined the relationships in India and elsewhere. With so much political opposition, and a country on the brink of a huge loss in the war, Winston Churchill manages to take decisions that look horrible. He once again sacrifices the lives of 4000 soldiers at Calais to drive the German attention away from Dunkirk where more than 300,000 soldiers have been pushed to the beaches. He has to prepare the island country for a German invasion. 

The story is engaging, to say the least. But those with only cinematic interest, the story will seem lengthy. Yes, there are liberties taken with the story telling: the one black person in the train happens to quote Shakespeare back at Churchill. And I doubt in real life Churchill would have respected that. But the fact that Churchill traveled the London Underground to get a feel of the pulse of the common people is brilliant.

There are many villains in a war. And those who suffer when their loved ones don't come back have a different story to tell than the ones who had to make that decision of sending more young people to die. This film is about that decision making process. About the man who wore the burden of the world on his shoulders, and would not give up because he knew, there was no negotiating with the tiger when your head is in its mouth. 


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