Monday, September 6, 2010

The Gathering Storm 2002

This is one of the best historical biopics. It details  Churchill's role as as an MP in the years preceding WW2. The movie shows Churchill in political oblivion and an object of disdain for his "war mongering" attitude. But as the intentions of Germany become clear, he is back in saddle as the head of the Navy in Chamberlain's cabinet when Britain declares war in September 1939. We see the events from the perspective of  his family home--his problems with his children who live in the shadow of the great father, the support and inspiration he draws from his wife, his straitened finances, the painting, bricklaying and writing, and the affection and loyalty of his domestic and official staff. His blood surges when he dreamsof great battles of history, like George Scott in Patton. The battlefield, military or political, is his element. He adores England, thinks little of Gandhi.

The personality of Churchill comes alive in the powerful, confident and blustering performance of Albert Finney. Vanessa Redgrave as Mrs Churchill also gives no less memorable a performance as a woman of personality, intellect and character, a driving force for her husband. The script sparkles and spills like champagne and the country home with a magnificent view is captured in sunlit verdure. The scenes in Parliament and the political lobbying in the corridors (and toilets) gives an insight into how history and decision making are shaped in a  democratic system. Churchill is portrayed as a voluble, volatile, good natured person with a strong sense of humor {outbreaks of emotion in the Churchill family are always attributed to the food recently consumed), liable to break into poetry, specially in moods of despondency. Well, a BBC portrayal of the darling and jolly good fellow national hero could hardly have been less rosy, but the film does have the breadth of perspective to portray greatness in something approaching its true dimensions. The best of talents have been harnessed for this movie, and the result is an enjoyable, well proportioned and meaningful film.

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