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Friday, August 19, 2016

THE GATHERING STORM (2002)

Award-bait HBO pic about Winston Churchill’s struggles in the mid-‘30s: calling out the rising German menace to deaf ears in Parliament while suffering a series of home-based crises. Cast from strength (Albert Finney, Vanessa Redgrave, Jim Broadbent, Derek Jacobi, Linus Roache, Lena Headley, Hugh Bonneville, Celia Imrie, Edward Hardwicke and Toms Wilkinson & Hiddleston), it’s so rife with real locations, handsome costumes & lush scoring, it all but swamps Richard Loncraine’s sedate helming; not so much well-made as well-appointed. But it does go down smoothly, like auditing a history class with an ‘entertaining’ prof. Perhaps the dramatic conflict would have taken flight with more age-appropriate casting. Here, Albert Finney’s Winston is played about a decade older than he was at the time, while nemesis Prime Minister Baldwin (Derek Jacobi) looks a decade too young. That’s a twenty year swing, and it adds an extra note of sympathy to the Churchill ledger. And since we’re already on his side . . . well, it doesn’t exactly help ignite a drama we know by heart.

DOUBLE-BILL: A less acclaimed sequel, INTO THE STORM/’09, with Brendan Gleeson & Janet McTeer taking over as the Churchills looks more intriguing. (Plus, Bill Paterson is in the cast! Always a good thing.) Write-Up to follow.

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