Both the June 1944 Normandy landings and Prime Minister Winston Churchill have been re-created at length in motion pictures over the past century. The Longest Day — and especially Saving Private Ryan — covered D-Day in dark detail, while Churchill was first portrayed by an actor onscreen in 1914. There are no battle scenes to speak of Jonathan Teplitzky’s Churchill, which instead zeroes in on the personal turmoil Winston (Brian Cox) and his wife Clementine (Miranda Richardson) experienced in the three days leading up to the subtly named Operation Overlord.
Still spooked by the World War I Gallipoli debacle, Winston’s anxiety about again sending tens of thousands of young men to their deaths is exacerbated by the fact that Dwight Eisenhower (John Slattery, as patrician as ever) and the other military leaders are shutting him out of the planning. Though a dialogue-heavy film, Teplitzky’s compositions are textbook examples of developing characters via blocking; Winston is frequently dwarfed by his empty surroundings, while the sight of Churchill and Eisenhower smoking at each other becomes even more unmistakably a dick-measuring contest. In its study of a famously tubby alpha male and how his wife helped him through one of the most difficult parts of his career, Churchill has echoes of Hitchcock — the movie, not the movie director’s style — though it’s a much better picture.
Opens Friday at the Clay Theater.