The word “uncompromising” is often attached to creative artists who defy convention. It is usually reserved for those who break taboos about violence or sex, particularly in motion pictures. Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver (1976) is “uncompromising,” as is Oliver Stone’s Natural Born Killers (1994), Marlon Brando’s pornographic Last Tango in Paris (1972), and Darron Aronofsky’s ugly and violent homage to environmentalism, Mother! (2017).
Darkest Hour, the new film about Winston Churchill’s leadership of Britain as the Nazis approached in 1940, is a truly uncompromising movie.
Some of the most amazing things about Dunkirk, the lauded new movie written and directed by Christopher Nolan, are the things that are not in the film. Dunkirk dramatizes what was considered at the time a massive failure — the 1940 evacuation of 300,000 British troops from France at the beginning of World War II. In Dunkirk the film there’s no cute, sarcastic hero like in American action films (Christopher Nolan is British). There are no lingering torture scenes, a specialty of American sadist Quentin Tarantino. Indeed, the faces of the villains in Dunkirk — the German forces — are never seen. There are no ridiculous stunts that defy physics and common sense. There’s very little Computer Graphics Images, the gleaming special effects technology that makes so many modern films look like plastic. There’s no happy ending, but there is an astonishing, tear-inducing climax that is one of the best defenses of the West and freedom ever committed to film. These omissions, along with rich cinematography, the brilliant use of music, terrific actors and a general tone of understatement combine to make Dunkirk—a story of survival and stirring patriotism in the face of evil—a truly great film.
Public life has never been more public than it is today, and the lives of famous people are examined as never before. Gone are the days when a President’s polio or marital infidelities were passed over in silence by a compliant press corps. A rhinoceros hide is required now, as perhaps never before, for a life in politics—though, as the new President has amply demonstrated, a rhinoceros hide is by no means incompatible with a thin skin.
Who among us has no embarrassing secrets? The constant risk of exposure and humiliation must deter many good people from seeking public office. We demand perfection and get mediocrity.
It is not even necessary any more for the famous to die for their lives to be turned into soap opera, as has happened to the British royal family with The Crown.
In February of 1945, Franklin D. Roosevelt traveled to Yalta and ceded geopolitical control of Eastern Europe to Joseph Stalin. At the conference, Winston Churchill could do nothing. In return for the Soviet dictator’s promise of allowing Poland to hold elections to set its postwar political course (and a vague assurance of democratic elections in the other countries occupied by Red Army troops at the close of World War II), the allies let him keep possession of the eastern part of Poland. This was, in effect, ratification of Stalin’s 1939-1941 territorial gains as the ally of Adolf Hitler.
Churchill had consistently attempted to block Stalin’s expansionism, but with the American President distancing himself from Britain, Stalin had little trouble setting himself up for a postwar empire taking in not only Eastern but parts of Central Europe.
Today, with the “framework of understanding” between the United States and Iran on Iran’s nuclear ambitions, Barack Obama has devised his own Yalta.
This year marks the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta, an important landmark in the development of the English common law. His consent dramatically extorted by defiant barons at Runnymede in June of 1215, King John agreed to limits on the power of the crown.
The spectacle of a proud king bending before the will of his subjects fired the imagination of one the greatest guardians of freedom: Sir Winston S. Churchill. Churchill frequently pointed to Magna Carta as the foundation of the British liberties he strove so mightily to defend. Indeed, the medieval charter retained a remarkable inspirational immediacy for Churchill, who was inclined to trace clear lines of descent through the congested and meandering corridors of history.
“Circumstances change but wisdom does not, and it teaches by example”—that thought forms the foundation of this valuable book by Will Morrisey, professor of politics and William and Patricia LaMothe Chair in the United States Constitution at Hillsdale College. Morrisey’s book is aimed at those “who want to learn the art of statesmanship” and pursues its lessons through examination of the thought and action of “two of its most accomplished practitioners.” The pairing of Churchill and de Gaulle is natural and important both because of the parallels between their labors and the thoughtfulness with which they undertook them. Statesmanship consists in…
In response to: How to Secure America’s Peace
There is much with which to agree in Angelo Codevilla’s thoughtful essay. To the extent that he and I differ, it is with regard to means and not ends. We both agree that U.S. foreign policy is in shambles, characterized by drift and incoherence. It is at best a-strategic at worst anti-strategic, lacking any concept of how to apply limited resources to obtain our foreign policy goals because this administration has articulated no clear goals or objectives to be achieved. The result is a weakness that opens the way for those who wish America ill. Winston Churchill’s 1936 characterization of the…
Angelo Codevilla has been a legend in our house since the 1980s when my wife and I first encountered this Renaissance force of nature radiating virtú. Somehow Angelo manages a vineyard in California, a horse ranch in Wyoming, a large, loving family, a prolific academic career, and world travel without strain, indeed with unfailing ebullience.…
Angelo Codevilla’s analysis of the many problems associated with U.S. foreign policy provides an abundance of important insights. He is devastatingly on the mark when he contends that since the beginning of the 20th century, U.S. officials have transformed the Founders’ emphasis on shielding the American people against external dangers into an arrogant, unattainable objective…
Walter McDougall writes: “Congress and the American people…want to believe their ‘indispensable nation’ can be a ‘benevolent hegemon’ doing good on the cheap and doing well by doing good.” As a description of how Americans view our role among nations, this is arguable. But it is a fair summation of our foreign policy establishment‘s view…