DVD Review: Into the Storm

Originally broadcast on HBO, Thaddeus O’Sullivan’s re-imagining of the rise and fall of Winston Churchill’s wartime government is fueled by Brendan Gleeson’s wonderfully irascible interpretation of the celebrated leader, which won a richly deserved Emmy Award.

Outside of capturing the distinctive physical and vocal dimensions of Churchill, Gleeson also taps into the leader’s brutally contradictory personality. Rather than offer a one dimensional, too-good-to-be-true hero textbook hero, this Churchill is a baffling and often exasperating mix of bullying, bravado, sincerity, contempt and determination. It is often easy to imagine Churchill was at war on two fronts – against the Axis forces and against himself – and Gleeson does a splendid job in mining the complexity of Churchill’s emotions.

As a historic document, however, the film leaves a lot to be desired. Large stretches of history are bypassed – Lend-Lease and the Atlantic Charter are not mentioned and the circumstances leading up to the 1945 election that unceremoniously dumped Churchill from power are barely touched upon. Janet McTeer, as Churchill’s long-suffering wife Clementine, deserves kudos for bringing a degree of warmth and humanity to the production, but other supporting players – Len Cariou’s haughty FDR, Iain Glen’s lisping King George VI, Patrick Malahide’s tightly-wound Maj. General Montgomery and Aleksei Petrenko’s booze-fueled Stalin – come across like one-dimensional cartoons rather than genuine personalities.

Nonetheless, Gleeson’s force of personality dominates the proceedings, and it is easy to overlook the film’s shortcomings whenever the actor’s Churchill turns up on camera.

“Into the Storm”
2009, 89 minutes, not rated
Directed by Thaddeus O’Sullivan, starring Brendan Gleeson and Janet McTeer
Released by HBO Entertainment

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