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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » The Gathering Storm
The Gathering Storm
HBO // Unrated // February 4, 2003
List Price: $26.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by David Blair | posted February 20, 2003 | E-mail the Author
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Highly Recommended
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The Movie

At the end World War I, Germany was forced to fully disarm. Soon after, Germany was torn apart piece by piece until it was a mere shadow of the military giant it use to be. Like many historic diplomatic blunders, the blatant attempt to humiliate Germany after the World War I could be considered the most devastating mistake in the history of mankind. Why you ask? Well, because countries, and people, hold grudges. And if you defeat an enemy then kick them senseless while they're down, they will rise against you when they're able, only this time angrier, seeping mad with revenge, and willing to sacrifice everything for their cause. Some may disagree with the tactic of helping their enemies after defeat, but if you don't you will eventually pay dearly in the form of human lives. This is the sick but devastatingly true fact of national diplomacy.

The Gathering Storm follows the life of Winston Churchhill, played by Albert Finney (Traffic, Erin Brockovich) and his wife Clementine, played by Vanessa Redgrave, at the last moment of peace before Germany once again gained power under the influence of Adolf Hitler, to begin the greatest and most destructive war the world has ever seen. This is a hugely entertaining movie that gives us a personal glimpse of Churchhill's life at the prelude of his illustrious career. The movie works as well as it does because of Albert Finney's brilliant performance as Churchhill. Finney won an Emmy for this performance and it's not hard to see why. His portrayal of the former Prime Mister of England is the greatest acting performance I've seen in years. The way Finney so effortlessly molded himself into the character is simply astonishing. For example, you get hit with a fat dose of reality in the opening sequence when you see Finney wake up from a dream. He gets right up, and heads to the bathroom buck naked to go take a piss, all the while reciting his newest speech. From this moment on you know Finney is not compromising at all with this character. Even if you don't like slow-moving historical movies, this film is worth a look just to see Finney act. He's that good.

At the beginning of the movie, Churchhill is on his way out of politics. His respect among his peers has all but dwindled, and he knows it. He is tired, frustrated, and about the crankiest old coot you'll ever see. But despite his brash behavior, Finny shows that he was a loving man. He loved his country. He loved his role in world politics. But more importantly, he loved his wife. Throughout the movie we follow Churchhill as he tries to gain support in exposing Hitler's not-so-subtle plan to take over the world. But we learn that this is not an easy task, because everyone in the English government doesn't want to believe that another World War could possibly happen.

For those not familiar with the history leading up the Second World War, this movie provides adequate information to get you up to speed. However, I found that my knowledge of the period made the film easier to follow, and more enjoyable then say someone who is not familiar with these diplomatic events. But in reality the story of Germany's sly resurrection is merely an engine to drive the plot forward for Finny's and Vanessa Redgraves' amazing performances. This is a movie about Churchhill and his wife, and more specifically their close relationship. The war plot just makes everything so much more interesting. In fact, I wish the movie would have went on for another two hours, so we could see Churchhill during wartime, and see more of Finny's acting. But unfortunately the film ends right as England declares war on Germany. We can only hope a sequel will be made.

The Gathering Storm has the best acting performances I've seen in years, and although the film is very slow, and informative in nature, it still provides tons of entertainment. For those of you totally disinterested in this time period, I would recommend skipping this movie because you would probably find it painfully boring. But if you enjoy World War history, and are intrigued by the charismatic leaders of these heroic times, then this movie is something you can't miss.


Video: The Gathering Storm is presented in 16x9 anamorphic widescreen by HBO studios. This is an average looking transfer and has its faults. For starters, the picture is a little soft. Nothing distracting or irritating, but it is noticeable. Secondly, there is edginess present from the video compression. Color looks a little dull, but black levels seem adequate. For this type of release these faults are nothing devastating, but it would have been great to get a nice clean, sharp picture.

Audio: A Dolby Digital 2.0 surround audio track is fine enough, but still lackluster. I found myself constantly turning up the volume in certain scenes to hear the dialogue more clearly. Overall, nothing stood out for me with this audio track. It just didn't sound as crisp as I have been getting accustomed to with major studio releases. But this isn't an action movie, so we're not really missing out on much here.

Extras: You get a director commentary on this DVD. I wasn't expecting any features with this HBO release let alone a commentary, so this was a nice surprise. The commentary by Director Richard Longraine and Producer Frank Doelger is very informative, and highly intriguing if you're into this kind of history. They can be dry at times but overall this was an enjoyable commentary.

Final Thoughts

The Gathering Storm is an intelligent and thoughtful movie that shows you Winston Churchhill in a way you have never seen him before. The acting is so superb that you just may be spoiled after seeing this movie, because I'm sorry, but you probably won't see acting this good again anytime soon. That is unless they all return for a sequel. If you enjoy history, and like seeing important historical figures portrayed in real life situations, then this movie is a must-see. Highly Recommended

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