The Churchill We Deserve

The scene: The light of a cathedral radio as regal as it is reverential, with its faceplate set aglow, while kith and kin listen to the crackle of a fireside chat instead of gathering before the crackle of an evening fire. They assemble before this cabinet of twisted columns and hand-carved slots, and a voice emerges from the arches and cloth of this product of industry and this fixture of hope in the darkness. Meanwhile, Nazis rally before an obscene cathedral of light.

In “Darkest Hour,” which is certain to be actor Gary Oldman’s finest hour, the contest is not between light and darkness; it is an attempt to free all Europe and move the life of the world forward into broad, sunlit uplands; it is a warning about the price of failure, of sinking into the abyss of a new dark age made more sinister, and perhaps more protracted, by the lights of perverted science.

The film is a study of how an actor prepares. It is a performance by England’s greatest living actor on behalf of the greatest Englishman who ever lived. It is a story about Britain’s most important prime minister—and the 20th century’s most indispensable man—whose most decisive words were words of action, whose most dramatic deeds were declarations of resolution and defiance, whose most magnanimous honor was the honor he entrusted to the individuals and institutions of his island nation––that they would sooner die for king and country than surrender to slavery and torture; that the cross of Christendom would never fall to the crooked cross of Hitler and the SS.

Oldman gives us the definitive portrayal of Winston Churchill. He prepares for his role by showing us why a leader thinks before he speaks. He shows us how melodrama is the only way to dramatize a battle between a champion of freedom and a monstrous abortion of hatred and defeat. He shows us how one man, mocked and ridiculed by members of his own party, and disliked by his own sovereign, forgave the former and fortified the latter. He shows us how one man summoned the best from his people with the best selections from a common history of religion, laws, language, literature, and tradition.

Churchill steeled himself for this role by virtue of his intuitive sense of timing, of knowing when reason must yield to romance, when intellect must yield to instinct, when good men must do something—anything—to stop the triumph of evil. He spoke for a group of shattered states and bludgeoned races, whose conquest owed as much to the appeasement of Germany as it did to Nazi aggression. He sought to rescue them; to redeem them, too, not with the spoils of war, but with the swords of justice; to resurrect, in the end, a Teutonic race that would live to remember its crimes, including a crime with no name, that is the worst crime in history against the Jewish people. His words did much to remake West Germany with the plowshares of peace, as spears became pruning hooks—and the fascist work of Albert Speer was reduced to rubble.

This is the Churchill Oldman gives us. This is the Churchill we deserve, with this actor’s patented roar. This is the Churchill who fought the fire of the Reich with the fury of right. This is the Churchill who thwarted a thousand years of tyranny by bracing Englishmen to do their duties, and so bearing themselves that, if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, “This was their finest hour.”

This was the only man who matched—and surpassed—the rhetorical power of Hitler. This was the man who had warned Britain about this enemy of all freedom-loving people; an enemy to whom millions had sworn their obedience, and their lives, to this supreme leader of the fatherland; an enemy for whom the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob was dead and to whom the few of religious conscience were as good as dead; an enemy for whom there was a never-ending need for “living space,” but never any space for the least among them; an enemy for whom Jesus was the Son of God because He was not a son of Jews; an enemy for whom God was without any traces or taint of Jewish blood. Thus did this enemy grant himself an Aryan god’s blessing to murder the Jews.

Churchill refused to negotiate with this man. He rejected the very idea of coexistence with this disgrace to humanity; this human acolyte of Satan. He renounced the authority of a regime that many admired and that even more accepted as inevitable. To Churchill, this was unacceptable.

“Darkest Hour” is an homage to the art of performance. It reveals that great men make history, not because their actions are always right or good, but because they never waver from a just cause. They never doubt a fundamental truth—that if an evil as wrong as slavery is not wrong, nothing is wrong; that if man does not fear evil, mankind should fear for its survival.

This truth is the product of an Anglo-American alliance. This fact is a universal truth of the history of the English-speaking peoples. It is a self-evident truth that marks the graves of patriots and graces the tombs of heroes. It is never free from the threat of extinction, not when each generation is an endangered species susceptible to lies.

Winston Churchill was the last lion and the defender of the realm. These titles were earned mightily and exercised modestly. They were the effect of an idealized version of all that Britain was, and all that Britain meant. They were the result of a policy to wage war until victory was won, because the alternative was a long nightmare of servitude and shame.

In that darkest hour, came Trinity Sunday. The light of Providence broke through the clouds of the gathering storm; the glory of God rang from every pulpit—and echoed from every pew—strengthening the will of Christian civilization.

Armed with truth, and awakened by the coming of the Lord, Englishmen chose to be men of valor.

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7 responses to “The Churchill We Deserve”

  1. I’ll respectfully disagree with this review. Oldman’s Winston is a bumbling dotard. Less a master of the political/military chessboard and more a lucky Mr. Magoo who was saved by dumb luck while pushing forward with a reckless war against Hitler. The film seems to have been brought to us by WWII revisionists and those out to knock Churchill’s reputation down a few pegs. It amazes me people are falling for this film as being friendly to Churchill. Sure, in the end, Churchill has his glory and victory, (sinister forces from the anti-west, anti Churchill left and isolationist right can’t bend all history to their ends, although they try), but the thrust of the majority of the movie is that Churchill was not a clever fox but a lucky SOB. I thought Oldman’s Churchill was far too heavy on the confusion and difficulty of speech. It was disappointing as hell. It’s one thing to portray Churchill as lovably eccentric but this went far beyond that to sell us a man on the verge of senility. This was a pro-Halifax rendering of events. The key subversive idea pushed in this film, known in academic circles but never attempted in popular accounts, is that Churchill was genuinely ready to treat for peace with Hitler at one point. That Halifax had for a short span of time prevailed on Churchill to “do a deal” when there is no reason whatsoever to believe this would have been acceptable to Churchill. In the scene where Halifax delivers his demand that Churchill take a meeting with the italian ambassador Winston looks beaten and about to cry. It is a disgraceful scene and a travesty. Churchill was merely playing Halifax and Oldham failed to convey his wily strategy in that crucial scene. This was a subtle, nasty and considered attack on Churchill’s reputation but critics are apparently blind to it. One shouldn’t be too surprised that the current film industry would put forth such a narrative, but I was saddened to see Oldham play co-conspirator to this kind of thing.

    • Interesting commentary, David. I don’t know enough to agree or disagree. (Also, I haven’t yet seen the movie.) What are the sources for your assertions? e.g. Does Churchill’s own massive series on WWII support what you say?

    • Spot-on, David. Saw the film just last night: It is beautifully crafted but fatally flawed in its portrayal of Churchill and just what a master of timing and politics he was. While Ashley has produced a very nice piece of writing with his review, it’s more a review of the Churchill of history, rather than the Churchill of this movie.

  2. Churchill, were he alive, would be aghast at the present state of affairs. He saw the post war settlement as a fundamental abrogation of the opportunity to keep faith with the countries and peoples who were liberated from the Nazi’s only to be subjugated by Soviet totalitarianism. And now Europe is again under the boot of totalitarian tyranny – and it’s the Germans again – this time using the EU as a blunt weapon of economic, social and cultural control to deny members any sense of sovereignty. It’s as if the victors in WW2 were in fact the losers. Germany is no peaceful. It pursues the same objectives of domination and control only this time it is more subtle and Machiavellian – but the outcome is the same. Brexit cannot come soon enough (and just as in a divorce – you split up first and then sort out the finances – you don;t keep living together and try and work out a settlement with all the chaos and disruption going on around you with each party using blackmail and intimidation to get their way. Just break away cleanly and then work our the points that can be agreed on in a calm and business-like manner)

  3. If the Nazis had won, Britain wouldn’t be the finance-dominated shell it is today, and Muslims wouldn’t be grooming young girls and trying to assassinate their Prime Minister.

    • Never remind cuckservatives about the disaster of WW2. It irritates them and interferes with their focus on self-cuckdom.