The Gathering Storm (2002 TV Movie)
Great in parts, slightly less so in sum
3 May 2002
There are so many excellent elements to this film that I almost feel churlish (there's a good English word for you) in saying that it ultimately left me a little bit dissatisfied. The entire cast was outstanding. So complete was his transformation into Churchill that I forgot about Albert Finney, the actor, within a few minutes of the start. Even the small roles had first-rate actors. Seeing the forlorn, tired look on the face of Derek Jacobi's Stanley Baldwin as he sits in the House of Commons enduring Churchill's speeches denouncing his government's inaction was in itself worth what I paid for HBO this month.

The cinematography and the art direction were both wonderful as well. In terms of history (which is very important to me) I was delighted to walk away feeling that I had a much deeper understanding of Churchill as a human being on his way to becoming a figure of history. It's rare that such insights come to us in historical films. I also pleased that there was no attempt made to conceal Churchill's flaws as a politician. As Jim Broadbent's character says, "He's wrong about India, of course." And so he was.

So why the bit of dissatisfaction? It was the fact that in the middle too much time is spent on the sub-plot of Ralph Wilgram. It's not that this part of the story wasn't interesting, but rather that I thought it took us from Churchill too far and for too long. I thought this diversion took a lot of steam out of the film. Instead of the extended focus on Wilgram I wished for greater depth on the more Winston-centric sub-plots such as his complex relationships with wife, family, and political party. In fact, I at about an hour and 45 minutes, I thought the film was too short.
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