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The biographical drama "Churchill" is the biggest load of historical codswallop you're likely to find — a thundering, blundering tale that purports to show Winston Churchill's personal darkest hour of World War II.

It's June 1944, and the Allied forces are on the verge of the biggest assault of the war: Operation Overlord, a massive invasion of Nazi-occupied France at the beaches of Normandy. The American and British military leaders have the plan ready, and need only good weather and approval of their civilian leaders to put into action on D-Day.

Churchill, played by the great character actor Brian Cox, has his doubts. Publicly, he fears the invasion is too narrowly focused and, should it fail, will take up too much of the Allied military's resources and leave Britain at the Germans' mercy.

Privately, he fears a repeat of the Blitz of four years earlier, when German bombers attacked London mercilessly. He also fears a repeat of his biggest failure of the last war, when as First Lord of the Admiralty he oversaw the assault on Gallipoli that led to the deaths of 46,000 Allied troops.

Director Jonathan Teplitzky ("The Railway Man") and rookie screenwriter Alex von Tunzelmann depict Churchill's dilemma as a series of meetings with the principals. He quietly implores King George VI (James Purefoy) to withhold his consent to the invasion. He bellows to the brass, both Gen. Dwight Eisenhower (John Slattery) and his own Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery (Julian Wadham), about the risks involved in the scheme. He tromps around the Ministry of Defense's war room, looking at maps and occasionally yelling at his aide-de-camp, Smuts (Richard Durden), and his new secretary, Helen (Ella Purnell).

Churchill also bounces around his house — sometimes sober, more often not — poring over documents and frequently losing his temper. His prim wife, Clementine (Miranda Richardson), deflects much of this misdirected anger and urges him to focus on the moment at hand, to prepare the nation for what's coming on D-Day and to urge the people to be brave.

A script like this must be catnip to an actor like Cox, who has been so consistently good at so many things. (Among them: playing the first Hannibal Lecter in "Manhunter," winning an Emmy as Hermann Göring in the TV miniseries "Nuremberg," lecturing would-be screenwriters in "Adaptation" and being Matt Damon's unseen nemesis in the "Bourne" series.)

Cox nails all of Churchill's traits — the stentorian voice, the jowly stare, the way he wielded a cigar like a baton — and in a different movie, we'd be talking about an Oscar campaign. But the staged rewriting of history, whether it happened that way or not, comes off as so phony and contrived that it's difficult to watch with a straight face.

Cox isn't the first to play Churchill, and he won't be the last. (Gary Oldman takes a whack at it later this year in "Darkest Hour.") And while Cox's depiction may be solid, the movie it's in is instantly forgettable.

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Brian Cox does a solid depiction of Winston Churchill in the days before D-Day, but this hamfisted movie is nobody's finest hour.

Where • Broadway Centre Cinemas.

When • Opens Friday, June 2.

Rating • PG for thematic elements, brief war images, historical smoking throughout, and some language.

Running time • 105 minutes.