Anglophile Reviews: HBO’s Into the Storm – Winston Churchill During World War II

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I really enjoyed HBO’s recent airing of “Into the Storm” and will watch it a million times. However, it has serious flaws and I don’t think it’s on the same caliber as it’s predecessor “The Gathering Storm.”

The film, made in partnership between HBO and BBC Films is pretty much a direct sequel to “The Gathering Storm which aired several years ago. “Gathering” was all about the events leading up to World War 2 and Churchill’s warnings of an ascendant Hitler. But it wasn’t just about that – it was about Churchill the man and his relationship with his wife – whom he loved very much. And that’s the strength of “The Gathering Storm.”

The writer of “Into the Storm” (who was the same as the other one) seems to have forgotten about all that and decided to focus on the broad strokes of history. I’ve been salivating over the idea of a movie that focused on Britain during World War II. There aren’t that many these days as most films focus on American involvement, often ignoring the fact that the Brits stood alone for almost 4 years.

I think the biggest failure of this movie is that it was not longer. There was so much story to tell, so many events that were skipped over that I think it’s lacking. I think the characterization of Winston Churchill was good – however, I don’t think Brenden Gleeson was a very convincing Churchill. You could hear the actor’s Irish accent invading his acting and it was distracting. I really believe that Albert Finney played a better Churchill. The most maddening thing was the terrible lighting inflicted upon Brenden Gleeson – his really bad makeup on his fake bald head really stood out – creating a distraction that took away from the story.

One aspect of the movie I did like was how the relationship between Churchill and the King was portrayed. I really enjoyed those bits of the movie – even if it seemed a little tedious watching Brenden Gleeson make the trip up the stairs at Buckingham Palace a half a dozen times. The set design was nice, the scenes of World War II London were nice. I really liked the look behind closed doors of British Politics during the war.

The pacing of the film just seemed off. They chose to tell the story in a non-linear fashion that I don’t really think worked as the scenes in Post War France just didn’t seem to have a point other than to show Winston grumbling at his wife and servants.

One thing that I really think they have included at the end was a post script letting viewers know that Churchill was actually Prime Minister again. His defeat to Attlee was not the end of his political career.

Another aspect that bothered me was the inclusion of a lot of material related to the Americans and Franklin Roosevelt. It just seemed forced into the movie, especially the scenes that Churchill wasn’t actually in. I suspect this material was inserted to appeal to American audiences whom would not have appreciated a solely British Perspective. While the relationship between FDR and Churchill is portrayed as rosy – history shows that they weren’t exactly best friends.

I did enjoy how they portrayed the tortuous toll the war took on Churchill – especially when it came to traveling to the various conferences, a process that meant travel by unheated plane for many days at a time.

Now, I know I am being harsh on the movie. I still enjoyed it greatly and I suspect I will be watching it many more times. One of my favorite World War II era movies is “The End of the Affair” – it shows what life was like for normal people during the blitz.

Does anyone else have recommendations for movies about Britain during World War II?

Into the Storm Earns 3 out 5 Union Jacks for a weak plot that focuses on the broad strokes of history, but is still a very adequate and enjoyable movie.

For more information on Into the Storm:

Official HBO Website
IMDB Profile

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Comments

  1. avatarBinden Shovel says

    I am really looking forward to Into the Storm hitting UK TV screens, I have been a great admirer of Churchill for many years. I came across his WW2 memoirs some years ago all 8000 pages of them and whilst reading them I was struck by how many skills and talents Churchill had which remained hidden from view. I decided to write a book called Churchill’s Secret Skills which I have just published on Amazon in America. The book highlights his hidden talents and applies them to a modern business environment. To avoid the boredom that is a prerequisite of most business books it is packed full of interesting stories and anecdotes about Churchill and the war.

  2. avatar says

    You couldn’t call it a realistic view of Britain during the war, but my favourite would be ‘A Matter of Life and Death’, which was released in the U.S. as ‘A Stairway to Heaven’

    It was released in 1946, stars David Niven and was directed by Powell and Pressburger.

    I’m not much of a film buff – and with apologies to fans of the film I’d perhaps describe it, in modern terms, as a ‘magic realist rom-com’

  3. avatarHelen Ramsay says

    “You could hear the actor’s Scottish accent invading his acting and it was distracting.”

    Brenden Gleeson isn’t Scottish. He’s Irish ;-)

  4. avatarsphinxvictorian says

    I think what I most enjoyed in this program was the portrayal of the relationship between Winston and Clementine. Janet McTeer’s performance was beautifully done, and I thought it brought a very real dynamic to what I have usually seen somewhat neglected.

    Although, I have to say, as much as I enjoyed it, it didn’t hold a candle to The Wilderness Years, the one that was on Masterpiece Theatre ages ago, with Robert Hardy and Sian Phillips. Hardy did a beautiful job with Winston, I thought, and Sian Phillips is always good.

    Glad to have found this blog by the way! Am the most confirmed Anglophile, and am the children of Anglophiles so I come by it honestly! I’ve also travelled in Britain extensively, so I’ve seen first hand, both her charms and her drawbacks, and I love her still! My ancestry is Scottish mostly, but I’ve got a bit of Norman in me as well!

  5. avatarChuffed says

    Amazing. Two British Institutions both played by Irishmen, Churchill and 007 ! And Gleeson was better than Finney …

    Anglophile, really ?

    as it’s predecessor => as ITS predecessor

    • avatar says

      Having re-watched both just this past weekend back to back, I still agree with my earlier assessment – Finney played a better Churchill than Gleeson.