Australian Jonathan Teplitzky’s film is both a gripping account of the four days leading up to D-Day, and a revealing study of Winston Churchill, a man only too aware of the horrors and bloodshed of war.
In the opening scene, as he stands on a deserted beach looking out across the English Channel, Churchill (Brian Cox) is plagued by the image of the sea foam turning red with blood, as he had witnessed at Gallipoli in World War I. His determination to avoid this ever happening again sets him at loggerheads with Generals Montgomery (Julian Wadham) and Eisenhower (John Slattery), who are in the final phase of planning the imminent Allied invasion of Normandy in June 1944.
Although Churchill has to heed the advice of his wife, Clementine (Miranda Richardson), and King George VI (James Purefoy) to step back, he remains highly emotional and anxious. Writer Alex von Tunzelmann’s insight into these tense few days is fascinating, both as a narrative and as a study of key characters. Key speeches resonate with Shakespearean eloquence, none more so than Churchill’s heartfelt prayer beseeching God to “not let it happen again”.
As usual with Teplitzky’s films, Churchill looks stunning, thanks to cinematographer David Higgs, production designer Chris Roope and his team. Churchill describes his bleak moods as feeling like "the colour draining from the picture". The subdued autumnal palette chosen by the designers is appropriate to the bleakness of Churchill and the times.