Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

Into the Storm

(UK, 2009)

Here’s an excellent performance by Irishman Brendan Gleeson as Winston Churchill that seems to me to have been wasted on a 100-minute feature when the story cries out for a 4- or 5-part mini-series. It begins in 1940 with the invasion of Belgium, the resignation of Neville Chamberlain and the new, wartime government formed by Churchill, and ends with his electoral defeat only weeks after the German surrender. This is an astonishing amount of historical ground to cover, and we skip over it all like a stone on water, hitting only a few dramatic high points. Major figures are hardly identified; I’m pretty knowledgeable about this period, but I don’t know every general or cabinet member. Even with all the abbreviations, though, we get a good portrait of the man, who was complex and difficult. He said “Never in the field of human endeavor was so much owed by so many to so few.” Of him you could say “Never was so much owed by so many to one man.” He didn’t do it alone, of course, but it’s hard to imagine England’s survival without him at the helm. He was called on to make some of the hardest choices anyone could ever make. He made some mistakes, but mostly he chose the right course. He was probably the greatest English speechmaker since Abraham Lincoln, one of the best wartime leaders of all time … and the Brits were completely right to toss him out of office once the war was over. He hadn’t a clue about how to run a country in peacetime. But more than any other man he was responsible for stopping the Nazi juggernaut. Without him, they’d be wearing lederhosen, speaking German, and dancing to oom-pah-pah bands in a Jew-free England.