This is an exceptional historical drama about the Big Three leaders of the Allied front—Churchill, Stalin, and Roosevelt—and how they worked together to fight and overcome Hitler’s Nazi war machine in World War 2. It offers a fascinating and unique “behind the scenes” look at the negotiations and decisions made by these three men. This insider view is enhanced by the fact that David Rintels, who wrote the screenplay, based most of the dialogue on transcripts, reports and memoirs of that time, which lends an air of authenticity and significance to the dialogue, even when minute and mundane matters are discussed.
This three-hour film covers all of the major events of this great war from beginning to end. This includes many of the major conflicts like the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the Battle of Stalingrad and the D-Day invasion. Newsreel footage from each of these major events adds realism to the movie and significance to the diplomacy of the Big Three leaders. Several meetings between the leaders are featured prominently, including the important and well-known conferences in Tehran in 1943 and in Yalta in 1945. Many of these meetings involved a good deal of discord and wrangling: Churchill, for instance, was vehemently opposed to the spread of communism and was especially concerned about the fate of Poland when the war ended, while Stalin pushed long and loud for a second front in the West to help relieve his armies in Russia, and often accused the other two leaders of not doing enough.
The acting is first-rate: Bob Hoskins as Churchill, John Lithgow as Roosevelt, and Michael Caine as Stalin do a fine job with their very demanding roles. I especially liked Michael Caine, who had his part down pat; with his height, make-up and accent he made for an often chilling Stalin, so it is no surprise to me that he was nominated for an Emmy for his performance. I also liked Ed Begley Jr. as Roosevelt’s aide Harry Hopkins and Jan Triska as Stalin’s aide Vyacheslav Molotov; both are very believable as top assistants carrying out the plans of their respective leaders.
I would recommend this movie, which won one Emmy award and was nominated for five others, to anyone interested in the history of World War 2. Because of its comprehensive coverage, it could be a good way for students to learn about this war, and would also be a good movie to watch on Memorial Day. I showed it to my 81-year-old Dad, who has seen every WW2 movie at least a dozen times and who was not interested in watching any of them for a thirteenth time. But he paid this movie the biggest compliment when he thanked me at least three times over the next day or so for getting and watching this movie with him.
Check the WRL catalog for World War II: When Lions Roared