This film covers the brief time interval between May 8th and June 4th, 1940, which may have been one of the most critical points in recent world history. England is in dire straights. Neville Chamberlain (Ronald Pickup) has resigned as Prime Minister, and Winston Churchill (Gary Oldman) has been selected to take his place, primarily because he is the only person acceptable to the opposition. Germany has just about taken over all of Europe, and Chamberlain and another powerful politician, Viscount Halifax (Stephan Dellane), want Churchill to let Mussolini negotiate a peace treaty with Hitler. They think England has no chance to win a war against Hitler, and, rather than get invaded and wiped out, they think it’s best to try to make a deal. (At this time, how incredibly evil Hitler was was still not well known.)
Churchill is vehemently opposed to this idea and somehow intuits that Hitler is much worse than the rest of his War Cabinet realizes. Churchill takes over the government at the time of the Dunkirk evacuation, and he was instrumental in coming up with the brilliant idea to rescue the stranded English soldiers via civilian boats. Eventually, Churchill somehow manages to sway Parliament to support his war stance and rallies the people behind him.
The movie has some terrific moments, but I thought too much of it dragged. Churchill’s “We Shall Fight Them on the Beaches” speech and another scene when Churchill goes on the subway to talk to the people (to gauge whether the country is willing to fight to keep their freedom) were high points, but there just weren’t enough of them. Oldman’s performance has gotten rave reviews, and he is one of the favorites to win the AA, so it is probably worth seeing to check out his performance, but, otherwise, I would wait to rent it. (I thought he did a fine job, but I wasn’t blown away!)
Anyone with an interest in WWII will enjoy it, although you will probably glance at your watch a few times.