Writer Hugh Whitemore returns with more Winston Churchill in this sequel to his pre-WWII drama THE GATHERING STORM/’02. But like the carbon copy that loses the crisp lines of the original, this second helping lacks definition. There’s a distinct loss in size & style in replacing Albert Finney & Vanessa Redgrave with Brendan Gleeson & Janet McTeer as the Churchills, shrinkage that’s generally mirrored in the physical product. Maybe if Whitemore hadn’t structured the story as flashbacks from war’s end, with an irascible Winston waiting for the 1945 election results as the film dips in & out of the war years. We sacrifice the arc of military strategy and the epic sweep of history for a little bit of election suspense. The film also takes less advantage of locations (smaller budget?), and offers diminished star power in supporting roles. (Though nothing diminished in Bill Paterson’s Clement Atlee, typically superb as this unassuming political threat.) You can see just what's been missing in a brief scene that finds Iain Glen’s King George tricking Churchill into reconsidering his idea to accompany troops on D-Day. But with so many actors trying on Churchill these days (John Lithgow, Gary Oldman, Michael Gambon*), you could also look elsewhere.
DOUBLE-BILL: *Gambon nails it as well as anybody in the reasonably satisfying CHURCHILL’S SECRET/’16.
READ ALL ABOUT IT: Not much in favor these days, but Churchill’s wartime memoirs, beginning with THE GATHERING STORM, remain very readable . . . with many a pat on the back for its author.