Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Into the Storm (HBO)

There are no explosions or car crashes in this HBO T.V. movie. Just the spectre of a war that threatened to wipe our way of life off the face of the earth.

This is the story of Winston Churchill, prime minister of England during World War II. We enter the scene just as Churchill is assuming the role, and we watch him throughout the war and then to his surprising defeat in the polls immediately thereafter.

You never see the actual war scenes. The nearest we get to the battle lines is when a dispatcher brings the news, or news arrives by phone. Or Churchill watches actual footage shot on D-Day towards the end. It's a slow-moving movie, even plodding, but I found it absolutely fascinating to see how a man like this rose to the occasion, found ways to win and, in the meantime during crushing defeats at Dunkirk and Tobruk, used his speeches to rally his fellow Englishmen to a hope that shouldn't actually be there.

Brendan Gleeson is transformed. The man always brings something special to his roles, but I think he's found his crown in this one. It would be so easy to picture Winston Churchill as a caricature, but Gleeson brings him to flesh-and-blood life for us. Churchill's speeches were never bombastic, but steady, neverending, and Gleeson shows where they come from. It's quite fascinating to watch Gleeson as Churchill roam from room to room, practicing his speeches, fine-tuning them, as his secretary tries to keep up with him.

Into the Storm shows a great marriage as well, as we watch how Clementine Churchill (Janet McTeer) puts up with the man who showed his temper with his servants. The best part of the John Adams movie, also an HBO special, showed the partnership between Abigail and John. So, too, does Into the Storm show the inner workings and, indeed, a partnership between Winston and his Clemmie.

It's outstanding. Thumb's up.


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