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Film / Into the Storm (2009)

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"We shall never surrender."

"Let us follow, steadfastly together, into the storm and through the storm.

Into the Storm (also known as Churchill at War) is a 2009 made-for-TV biopic (co-produced by The BBC and HBO) that showcases Winston Churchill's career as a Prime-Minister across the Second World War, as well as his relationship with his family and his friendships with politicians of the world. The film essentially intercuts scenes showing Churchill's most legendary moments as a politician with his (often troubled) relationship with his family (particularly his wife, Clementine), who have to deal with his harsh personality.

In short, the film niftily sums up who Winston Churchill was in detail, showing many of his qualities and many his flaws.

Brendan Gleeson received widespread acclaim for his portrayal of Winston Churchill, including from Churchill's own daughter.

It is also a loose sequel to an earlier movie about Churchill (The Gathering Storm, about Churchill's wilderness years before the War), but it features none of the cast and production staff of the former, although they have the same producer and screenwriter (respectively, Frank Doelger and Hugh Whitemore).

Not to be confused with the tornado movie released in 2014.

This film features examples of:

  • Anti-Hero: Churchill is portrayed as a type III: Basically every character in the movie recognizes Churchill is stubborn, arrogant, ill-tempered man, but they also recognize he is the one who can save western civilization from destruction.
  • Anti-Villain: Lord Halifax is something of an antagonist in the first half of the movie (as he seeks peace with Hitler, opposite to Churchill), but he's portrayed as simply misguided. He's shown as wise, calm, well-mannered and respectful. Churchill himself notes Halifax is no enemy of his.
  • Affably Evil: Josef Stalin is shown as this. He may be a tyrannical dictator, but one can't deny the man has manners. Lampshaded by Churchill's butler, Sawyers, after Stalin drinks Sawyers' health as a working man of Great Britain:
    Sawyers: I drink to Marshal Stalin, a much nicer man than I thought he'd be.
  • All of Them: Used in George and Churchill's first conversation, regarding the movement of the British Army ("How many of them (will go to France)?" "All of them. The entire British army.")
  • America Won World War II: "We cannot win it (the war) without the Americans!" Says Churchill. Despite this, the movie actually subverts this: The Americans are shown as worthy allies, but the British (and to a lesser extent the Russians) are shown as just as responsible, if not more so, for the ultimate victory.
  • Arc Words: "Out spoke Brave Horatius, the Captain of the gate: To every man upon this earth, death cometh soon or late. And how can man die better, than facing fearful odds, for the ashes of his fathers, and the temples of his gods?" a phrase repeated by Winston Churchill twice in the movie.
  • Armchair Military: Churchill's opinion on Eisenhower.
  • Artistic License History: Clement Attlee is shown as being against the bombing of German factories because of the inevitable collateral damage, but actually Attlee was strongly in favour of area bombing of Germany. This was presumably changed to emphasise the idea that Churchill was more combative than Attlee, but the truth (as always with historical dramas) is more complicated.
    • The meeting between Chamberlain, Halifax and Churchill at 10 Downing Street, where Chamberlain asks Churchill if he'd serve in a government under Halifax, and Churchill says nothing until Halifax says that he thinks it would be better if Churchill were to take the job, is faithful to Churchill's account in his history of the war, but not to the facts. Halifax had already told Chamberlain, in a previous meeting between the two of them, that he would not form a government. In the actual meeting, Conservative whip David Margesson was also present, and when Chamberlain raised the general question of who would replace him, Halifax simply repeated his position that he would not be prime minister and thought it ought to be Churchill. Churchill agreed.
  • Awesome, but Impractical: The idea of turning ships into icebergs to disguise them sounds brillant at first, but then...
    Ismay: Icebergs travelling in formation, sir? At a steady eight knots?
    Winston: We'd have to work on the details..
    Ismay: ...And with smoke coming out of a funnel?
  • Aw, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other: Clemmie and Winston bicker a lot, but they have their sweet moments too.
  • Badass in a Nice Suit: Churchill is rarely not sharp-dressed.
  • Battle Butler: Thompson acts like a common butler in the movie, but he also was Churchill's bodyguard.
  • Bearer of Bad News: Poor Captain Pim. Man only gets to announce the bad news. Lampshaded by Churchill when he finally announced something good (the German surrender and the war's end).
    Churchill: After bringing me bad news for five years, in one feel swoop you have redeemed yourself.
  • Berserk Button: "The British are afraid of fighting" claims Stalin. Churchill's face immediately shifts into a Death Glare, as does the look of every other Brit in the room.
  • Biopic: Of the "Greatest Triumph swiftly followed by downfall" variety.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The war is won, the world is safe. But Churchill lost the election and his political career is on the skids, his family life is even more troubled, the British Empire lies in shambles, the looming threat of the Cold War lies in the horizon, England's fate is uncertain, and the age of Imperial power is over for England.
  • Blood Knight: Arthur Harris, head of Bomber Command. The dude lives to drop bombs on Germans.
  • Boring, but Practical: After years of war and high-flown rhetoric, when the war is at last coming to an end and people have their eyes on the future, this is how they perceive Clement Attlee, as opposed to Churchill. He may not be able to make great speeches, but unlike Churchill he has a practical vision for a future Britain.
  • Brutal Honesty: There's an amusing scene where Churchill and Montgomery meet each other for the first time, and Montgomery displays the same kind of brutal honesty Churchill does, and Churchill grows an admiration for him due that fact.
  • Butt-Monkey: Sawyers, Churchill's butler, cannot go a single scene without Winston mocking him for something.
  • Catchphrase: In-Universe with Churchill's "Keep buggering on". While he doesn't say the phrase often in the movie, King George mentions it as being Churchill's catch phrase in one scene (which is factual).
  • The Chains of Commanding: The harsh decisions of leadership take quite a toll on Churchill.
  • Cheese-Eating Surrender Monkeys: Averted. Churchill sometimes comment negatively on the French, but he never explicitly calls them cowards, and from what we hear they're quite a fearsome force to face.
  • The Chosen One / Because Destiny Says So:
    King George: It is an extraordinary coincidence; Hitler attacking the West and you becoming Prime-Minster the same day.
    Winston Churchill: Could be coincidence, Sir. Could be destiny.
  • Cigar Chomper: Who else?
  • Comically Serious: Ismay, Churchill's military aide, is quite amusing with the straight face he keeps to Winston's antics.
  • Darkest Hour: The first third of the film focuses on Britain's darkest hour.
  • Decon-Recon Switch: The movie deconstructs Churchill's heroic image a bit. While he is shown as a headstrong, principled man who will not give up, and who comes to be considered the saviour of Britain, the movie also shows how his temper and his personality damaged his personal life irreparably, and by the end his refusal to change turned him in a relic of a former era.
  • Distinguished Gentleman's Pipe: Stalin has one, as does Attlee.
  • Elmuh Fudd Syndwome: King George VI and Montgomery both display the English version of this, the former to a vewy pwonounced degwee and the latter in a slightly milder form. In both cases, Truth in Television.
  • End of an Age: The final third of the film, showcasing the post-war period, has a very melancholic feel to it, displaying the definitive end of the British Empire and the downfall of Winston Churchill and the sort of Imperialistic, larger-than life politician he represents.
  • Establishing Character Moment: Neville Chamberlain is announcing his resignation to Churchill and Halifax. Churchill simply glares in the horizon without saying a word and ignoring Chamberlain like a stubborn ox until Chamberlain and Halifax catch the drift of what he means.
  • Fire-Forged Friends: King George starts with a mild dislike for Churchill and his methods, but as the war rages on, they grow closer. A similar series of events happens with Roosevelt and Churchill.
  • Foregone Conclusion: We already know how the war will turn out, the interesting part is Churchill's struggle.
  • Foreshadowing: Lord Halifax, early in the movie, sternly warns Churchill that Britain cannot win the war without a devastating loss of life and resources that will probably cost them the British Empire. He's correct.
  • Freudian Trio: Halifax, Churchill and Attlee. Halifax is The Spock, priorizing Britain's survival at all costs, Churchill is The McCoy, seeking honor and duty, Attlee is The Kirk, being something of a middle ground.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: Wing Cdr. Maddox, the scarred war-veteran Churchill talks to when awarding him the Victoria Cross, is one of the young men present in the scene Churchill visits the Air Force field.
  • From Bad to Worse: This phrase effectively sums up Britain's situation for the first three years or so of the War.
  • Full-Frontal Assault: "As you can see, Mr. President, I have nothing to conceal from you."
  • The Ghost: We never see (or even hear) Dwight Eisenhower, despite him having some bearing in the plot. The same also goes for Adolf Hitler and Mussolini, neither of which ever appears in the movie, but bear heavily in the plot.
  • Godwin's Law: Amusingly, there are two proto-examples. In one a politician, out of the blue, compares Churchill to Hitler to offend him, and in another Churchill himself mentions the socialists would use "some form of Gestapo".
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: Churchill and Roosevelt, as in real life.
  • Heroic BSoD: Two. Churchill starts having one when the sheer loss of life the war caused starts to get him, and a second one after he loses the election near the end of the movie, he spends the rest of the movie with an empty gaze.
  • Heroic RRoD: Churchill gives himself a heart attack with the amount of work he does. Truth in Television
  • Heroic Willpower: Winston, quoth FDR:
    Roosevelt: Maybe drunk, maybe a warmonger, but certainly a fighter.
  • Honor Before Reason: Churchill's defining characteristic, both his greatest asset in the war, and his greatest flaw in personal life and politics.
  • Jerkass: Stalin in the scene they are discussing the war strategy. He spends the entire scene offending his Allies for no reason.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Winston himself.
  • The Lancer: Clementine is one to Winston.
  • Large Ham: Brendan Gleeson as Churchill, of course, but most remarkably we have General Montgomery's single scene ("What we have here is WORSE than useless!")
  • Last Stand: Quoth Winston:
    Winston Churchill: If the long history of our island is to end, at last, then, let it end only when each one of us lies choking on his own blood upon the ground!
  • Manchild: Clementine says Churchill is one, but she says positively: He has an overactive imagination, jokes too much and is overexcited at many times.
  • Manly Tears: Churchill gets these at the theatre, at the end of the film, when the actress sings "Some Day I'll Find You".
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Winston's face when he sees the sheer loss of life he brought upon speaks more than a thousand words.
  • Open Mouth, Insert Foot: When Churchill is preparing his election broadcast, against the advice of literally everyone, he insists on keeping in the bit about how a socialist government under Labour would have to control dissenting opinion by means of "some form of Gestapo". We see the broadcast being played on the radio in various places, with people basically ignoring him, except for one man in battledress who disgustedly comments "That's bollocks." It also leaves Churchill wide open for Attlee's far more dignified and effective rebuttal in his own broadcast.
  • Parental Neglect: Churchill's parents ignored him, according to Clemmie. This is factual.
  • Pay Evil unto Evil: Harris' justification for the bombing of Dresden.
  • Precision F-Strike: It is used twice, both by Churchill.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: King George embodies this trope in heart and soul every time he appears in scene.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Churchill and everyone he shares a room with, but the dynamic is more clear with the calm, understated and polite Attlee.
  • The Reliable One: Clementine (and frankly, a team of people) serve as Cloudcuckoolander's Minder, as Winston is absolutely hopeless with normal life and needs a lot of looking after.
  • Romanticism Versus Enlightenment: The gist of Halifax VS Churchill debate. Halifax is proposing a pragmatic way out for the British Empire to remain, while Churchill is prioritizing honor and duty instead of survival.
  • Rousing Speech: Bits and parts of most of Churchill's epic war speeches are shown in the movie.
  • Royals Who Actually Do Something: King George helped Churchill a great deal with his guidance, and when the blitz is upon them, he refuses to leave London at personal risk.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here: When Churchill proudly declares (to an uproar of applause) that Britain will fight no matter the cost, Halifax gets up and leaves the room quietly. Incidentally this is his last scene in the movie.
  • Sociopathic Hero: Air Marshal "Bomber" Harris, who is the one to suggest and execute the bombing of Dresden and in one scene brags about it.
  • Stiff Upper Lip: Everyone. None of the main cast seems particularly shocked at the prospect of the blitz, and Churchill even watches the battle unfold.
  • Sugar-and-Ice Personality: Churchill can act quite reasonable to some people then terribly to others. Noticeably with his two main employees: He treats Sawyers very badly, but seems to respect Thompson very well.
  • Two-Faced: A recipient of the Victoria Cross.
  • War Is Glorious / War Is Hell: Churchill's opinion on the subject (taken from an actual quote)
    Churchill: What used to be cruel and magnificent is now cruel and squalid.
  • We ARE Struggling Together: The Brits bicker amongst themselves an awful lot, and Stalin and Churchill clearly are not eye-to-eye.
  • What Do You Mean, It's Not Political?: In-Universe. Churchill and his friends are watching a movie (his favorite movie, The Hamilton Woman) and he recommends replacing the name Napoleon for Hitler in Nelson's Rousing Speech.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Lord Halifax vanishes off the movie mid-way through. Justified as he became Britain's Ambassador to the United States (and was highly successful in that role.)
  • Won the War, Lost the Peace: The result of the conflict by the end of the movie, from Britain's perspective.