An oddly weightless adaptation of Churchill’s first month or so of wartime prime ministering. Gary Oldman under swarths of makeup and prosthetics is the film’s main selling point, as he’s of course as good as would be expected, adept as always at making a proper performance out of limitations like excessive makeup that would handicap most other actors. Ben Mendelsohn is really the more interesting cast member here though, playing against type as George VI, delivering a very nuanced, restrained performance that tantalisingly hints so much, a far cry from the ostentatiousness of Oldman’s performance.
The film trucks along nicely enough for the first two acts, rising the tension and making it clear just why Churchill seemed so mad without the benefit of hindsight, but it deflates hard in the third act with a maudlin scene on the tube taking the air out of proceedings and making Churchill’s climactic speech the film was obviously always building towards feel airless, flat, and too pat in its inspiration.
There are some nice shot compositions, and the occasional striking visual (a room bathed in red from a phone is particularly striking since so much of the film is so dour in terms of colour) but the cast is the real meat on the bone here. It’s always competent, but little here works splendidly. Two and a half cigars, and a telegram.