Into the Storm (2009)

 

 

 

Director:     Thaddeus O'Sullivan. 

Starring:    Brendan Gleeson (Winston Churchill),  James D'Arcy (Jock Colville),  Iain Glen (King George VI),  Janet McTeer (Clementine Churchill),  Robert Pugh (General Ismay),  Patrick Malahide (Major General Bernard Montgomery),  Bill Paterson (Clement Attlee),  Len Cariou (President Franklin D. Roosevelt),  Adrian Scarborough (Sawyers),  Garrick Hagon (Harry Hopkins),  Jack Shepherd (Neville Chamberlain),  Emma Hamilton (Betty),  Michael Pennington (Bomber Harris),  Donald Sumpter (Lord Halifax),  Clive Mantle (Thompson),  Terrence Hardiman (Captain Pim),  Aleksei Petrenko (Josef Stalin).

Winston Churchill during and after World War II.

Made for TV movie. 

 

 

Spoiler Warning:  below is a summary of the entire film. 

Hendaye, France.  July 8, 1945.  Churchill is swimming while being watched by two of his aides. 

Flashback.  Churchill thinks back to the BBC broadcasts announcing the events of World War II.  The German army invades Holland and Belgium.  Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, who has been so heavily criticized in his conduct of the war, summons leaders of his party to an emergency meeting at number 10 Downing Street.  Chamberlain says that the Labor Party has told him that they will not serve under him, so he shall resign his position.  He asks Churchill what he thinks about serving as the minister of defense under the leadership of Edward Halifax.  Churchill is silent.  Halifax says that Churchill would be the better choice to be prime minister and Churchill says he agrees. 

Buckingham Palace, May 10, 1940.  Churchill talks to King George VI.   The King would have preferred Halifax as prime minister, saying that he would make the "perfect" prime minister.  Churchill and the King go over the war map and Churchill says one must assume that Germany will go for France.  The King wonders if 21 miles of the English Channel will save Great Britain. 

Churchill speaks with the head of the Labor Party Clement Attlee saying that they will work together.  Attlee will be his deputy.  Churchill will be both prime minister and minister of defense. 

The Germans are advancing toward Calais, the French port closest to England (across from Dover, England).  The Germans came through the Ardennes Forest, sidestepping the British efforts to save Belgium.  The British have been out-maneuvered.  Seeing that the British are trapped, Churchill starts thinking of how many of the 365,000 men they can get back to England.  The military estimate is 50,000 if they are lucky.  Churchill tells Admiral Pound to grab all the boats he can get his hands on to prepare for an evacuation. 

Mussolini is willing to act as an intermediary with Germany, but Churchill rejects the whole idea because Hitler cannot be trusted.  Halifax urges Churchill to negotiate because they could lose a quarter of a million men. 

Belgium has surrendered and Churchill learns that the French have no military reserve. 

Back to the present.  The newspaper says that Churchill and his wife "Clemmie" are in Bordeaux, France on holiday after long electioneering.  Mr. Churchill is expected to win.  But one newspaper says that Labor will win.  Clemmie tells her grown daughter not to let her father see the latter.  To get his mind off politics, Clemmie asks Winston to take up painting again.  He is also worried that if Labor wins, where will their money come from.  Clemmie tells him that surely he will get offers to write books and such things. 

Flashback.  Calais has fallen.  The evacuation of the troops from Dunkirk has begun.  Churchill says that wounded men are to be evacuated last. 

A week later and Churchill can write about the miracle at Dunkirk.  Countless ships numbering to 1,000 have carried over 335,000 men "out of the jaws of death and shame to their native land."   He broadcast what he wrote.  "We shall fight on the seas and oceans.  We shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air.  We shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be.  We shall fight on the beaches.  We shall fight on the landing grounds.  We shall fight in the fields and in the streets.  We shall fight in the hills.  We shall never surrender." 

Back to the Present.  Churchill is in a really nasty, mean mood.  He starts yelling at his servant Sawyers over a few tubes of missing paint colors.  He is so nasty, that Mrs. Churchill has to tell him to stop treating their servants like this.  Churchill says that Sawyers just takes it in stride.  Sawyers knows what he is like.   Clemmie tells her husband that of course Sawyer minds it.  She reminds her husband that it was men like Sawyers who won the war!

Flashback.  Churchill tells King George VI that the French have surrendered.  His Majesty and family must be moved to a safe place.  The King asks Churchill if an invasion is imminent?  Churchill says it all depends on if the Germans can win air superiority.  They have to have air superiority before launching an invasion.  The King then tells Churchill that he shall not leave London under any circumstances.  Churchill accepts this, but tells the King that they must maintain naval superiority in the Mediterranean Sea for they must have access to the Suez Canal.  Otherwise their oil supplies could be shut off.  If the French will not either take their ships to British ports or scuttle them, he has ordered Admiral Somerville to sink the French Fleet at the Port of Oran, Algeria. 

Washington, D.C.  July 3, 1940.  President FDR reacts to the bombing of the French Fleet and the loss of 1,200 Frenchmen.  He says when he first met Churchill he thought he was a snob, but regardless of what he is, he knows how to fight. 

Churchill writes FDR asking for any kind of support the USA can provide.  He says:  "I trust you realize that the voice and force of the United States may count for nothing if they are withheld too long.  You may have a completely subjugated Nazified Europe established with astonishing swiftness, and the weight may be more than we can bear."

Churchill goes to visit an air squadron.  He tells the pilots that the next two days are crucial.  As he talks, the order to scramble comes and the pilots dash to get their planes up in the air.  Speaking of the pilots, Churchill comments:  "Never has so much been owed by so many to so few." 

Churchill goes out to talk with Maj. Gen. Montgomery because he has heard he has been complaining about the southern coastal defenses.  Montgomery says they need a mobile force to meet Hitler, not static gun emplacements.  Churchill thinks he may be right and invites Montgomery to lunch with him. 

Churchill shows his dinner guests his favorite movie, That Hamilton Woman (1941) with Hitler represented by Napoleon Bonaparte. 

Churchill celebrates that the Germans have decided to withdraw all their invasion barges.  But he wants to no one to mention this to the United States, because he doesn't want them to think that Britain is out of danger. 

The Japanese attack Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, December 7, 1941.  Sawyers informs Churchill and Churchill immediately declares war on Japan.

Mrs. Churchill learns from Sawyers that her husband is headed to Washington, D.C. to speak personally with FDR.  She tells her husband that he is already exhausted.  She also tells him to speak to the president on the phone rather than in person. No, says Winston, it must be face to face.  Resigned that her husband is flying to Washington, D.C. Clemmie asks, almost pleads, for Sawyers to go with him.  He agrees to go with Winston. 

Winston and FDR agree that they will not open up a second front in Europe for the moment.  Of course, Stalin will be very unhappy about that.  Churchill tells Roosevelt that he can count on Singapore because it is impregnable.   The two native English-speakers get along well with each other.  At night Winston Churchill has to call for the doctor.  He has  had a minor heart attack.   

Back to the present.  Clemmie is mad because she feels Winston is not trying hard enough to enjoy the vacation and is paying too little attention to her and their daughter.  He tells her he can't help it. 

Flashback.  Churchill is furious about the very possible loss of Singapore.  He tells his staff that he has assured FDR that Singapore was impregnable.  Winston tells General Brooke to defend every inch of ground because Singapore is the key to British strength is southeast Asia.  Not long after this meeting, Winston has to go on the air to tell the British people that Singapore has fallen.  He says:  "Let us move forward, steadfastly together, into the storm and through the storm." 

In Parliament Churchill is subject to a great deal of criticism.  People are saying he loses battle after battle.  And what about the disaster of the surprise attack on Dieppe, France with a loss of 4,000 men?  At home Winston broods over the debate.  His wife has to tell him to stop brooding about "that wretched debate".  He tells her there have been too many disasters. 

Winston talks to the King about resigning, but the King tells him the people need him.  The King admits that the fall of Singapore was a big shock.  And Winston tells him that German Admiral Donitz and his u-boats are taking a heavy toll on Allied shipping.  And more bad news arrives.  Allied night bombing is so inaccurate that it is scarcely doing any damage at all.  The suggestion is that they concentrate on certain areas with high concentrations of industry and transportation.  Attlee objects that would mean killing a lot of innocent people.  Churchill isn't worried about this.  He tells Harris to let the enemy have it!

Russian Embassy, Tehran.  November 30, 1943.  Stalin offers a toast to Churchill on this day of his birth.  FDR is also there.  Stalin wants the Allies to invade northern France because the Russian Red Army is suffering heavy losses.   Churchill tells him that their forces will not be ready until the summer of 1944, six months away.  But FDR says that the timing of the Allied invasion will fit with the demands of Stalin.  Churchill objects and Stalin says the British are afraid of fighting.  The Germans are not supermen.  Churchill says the British are fighting.  He comments to FDR about Stalin:  "Bloody man!" 

At night Churchill can't sleep.  He tells his aide Thompson that he is exhausted.  In fact, he has traveled 110,000 miles since the beginning of the war for a total of 33 full days at sea and 14 days in the air. 

Back to the present.  Clemmie tells one of their aides that Winston's family completely ignored him when he was young, despite the fact that their son adored his parents.   

Flashback.  Work is being done for the Allied invasion of northern France.  Churchill says he is going with the troops on D-day.  Clemmie learns of this and she tells aide Jock that she will see what she can do about this.  So Winston finds himself called in to see the King, who tells the prime minister that he is going in with the troops on the first wave on D-day.  Winston is shocked and tells him that that is simply impossible, for the King almost certainly would be killed.  The King says yes, Winston, and I have a replacement while you certainly do not.  "So, let's hear no more about it!" 

D-Day, June 6, 1944.  After the invasion, Winston watches films of the invasion and of the many dead on the beaches. 

Livadia Palace, Yalta.  February 4, 1945.  Churchill wants to talk about resisting the Soviet takeover of Poland after the war, but FDR refuses to discuss it saying that it would not be advantageous for peace to talk about the subject.  It would alienate "Uncle Joe".  Churchill is shocked.  He feels the Soviet Union and the United States are those with the power and they will decide what happens. 

Churchill learns of the saturation bombing of Dresden, Germany with 58,000 dead and the city virtually totally destroyed.  Churchill finds himself very distracted.  Germany signs the peace treaty, the war is over. 

Buckingham Palace, May 9, 1945.  The King and Queen appear before the roars of the people.  The King brings Winston out to share in the honors. 

Churchill is mad at Attlee because his Labor Party wants to dissolve Winston's government.  He writes a speech that his wife does not like.   In the speech, Churchill will say the British left-wingers will have to resort to a Gestapo to keep their government propped up.  Clemmie says it will just make a lot of Labor people angry because for five years they were fighting against Hitler and the Gestapo.  He thanks his wife for her advice, but says this one time he will not heed it. 

On the radio Churchill talks against a Socialist government that will have to rely on a Gestapo.  And sure enough, thousands, if not millions, are insulted by the remark.  Attlee slams Churchill. 

Back to the present.  Clemmie tells her husband she is not looking forward to going back to England.  She says that another five years at number 10 Downing Street could kill him and her.  She also remarks that the future frightens her.       

They return to a huge Labor victory.  Churchill visits the King to tell him officially that he will be stepping down in favor of Labor.  The King wants Churchill to accept the Order of the Garter, the highest order of chivalry a monarch can bestow.  Churchill says he's deeply honored, but he must refuse, since the people have given him the Order of the Boot. 

Clemmie takes Winston to see a Noel Coward play.    He is mad at her for bringing him to the theater.  At the last minute, Clemmie gets upset and tells her husband to go in without her.  Winston begs her not to do this, so she does get out of the car, but warns him that she can't go on like this and she won't.  Churchill gets out to go in with his wife.  He feels bad and grabs her hand.  She looks closely at him as his eyes well up.  The actors acknowledge Churchill as the savior of their nation and Churchill gets a standing ovation and wild cheers from the audience and actors. 

"In war: resolution.  In defeat: defiance;  In victory: magnanimity. In Peace: goodwill."  Winston Churchill. 

 

Good movie.  It's good to get some deeper insight into what Winston Churchill and his wife Clemmie were going through in the times of World War II and its aftermath.  There certainly was a lot of pressure on Churchill.  He even had a slight heart attack.  And yet Churchill was having a ball leading the war effort for Great Britain.  One of the hardest things on him was the strain brought into his relationship with his wife and daughter.  At one point Clemmie says that she can't go on like this and she won't.  And yet she stuck it out with him. 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.

 

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