Long held as one of our finest actors, Brian Cox (the weathered, gruff Scottish genius thesp as opposed to the leggy, grinning genius physicist, let’s get that out of the way first) is embedded in the minds of cinephiles everywhere thanks to a lengthy career littered with indelible performances. Not least of these is his turn as greatest Briton Winston Churchill in, well, Churchill, arriving on digital platforms, Blu-ray and DVD from October 16th, courtesy of Lionsgate Home Entertainment UK, but we’ve decided to delve a little deeper into Cox’s career to unearth some more of his finest hours:
Jonathan Teplitzky’s beautifully shot drama examines the 96 hours leading up to the Normandy Landings during World War Two, focusing on Churchill’s internal struggles with his conscience as well as his increasing search for relevance in a government trying to sideline him. Placing such a short space of time under a microscope rather than going for the full biopic treatment gives Cox the chance to add nuance to a character so often portrayed as a ball of bombast and bluster. A career-best performance if ever there was one, Cox shines alongside a similarly peerless cast of supporting stars that includes Miranda Richardson, John Slattery and James Purefoy.
RED 2 (2013)
If Churchill sees Cox deliver a masterclass in studied nuance, RED 2 is him showing everyone how to throw a party. Starring brilliantly as a Russian spy, Cox is clearly having the time of his life in this geriatric action thriller that sees Bruce Willis, Helen Mirren and John Malkovich star as espionage old timers pulled back into the fray by an unhinged bomb maker (Anthony Hopkins, naturally). Whether he’s rescuing our heroes from a firing squad or kissing Mirren’s feet as she takes pot shots at the villains, Cox, replete with a velvet hat and a cheeky grin, is having a ball and it’s frankly infectious.
The Bourne Identity (2002)
Diverse as Cox is as a performer, he can do double-dealing bureaucrat better than almost anyone, something he demonstrated with aplomb across The Bourne Identity and The Bourne Supremacy. As the brilliantly American-sounding Ward Abbott, Cox was the puppetmaster behind the Treadstone programme and ultimately, in a sense, the creator of Jason Bourne: killing machine. Doesn’t stop him being as oily as they come, mind, or as cowardly, with Cox convincing at every turn.
X-Men 2 (2002)
It’s de rigueur for British thesps to take the lead as villains, a trend that pre-dates even the Bond films. Cox, however, took a slightly different direction when he debuted in the X-Men universe in the first sequel, starring as a US army general, William Stryker, singlehandedly responsible for the creation of walking razor blade Wolverine, as well as for nearly wiping out all mutants by harnessing his son’s telekinetic powers and Charles Xavier’s supercomputer. Obviously. Cox convinces amid all the heightened sci-fi drama to create one of the series most memorable villains and someone deftly able to match the on-screen might of the likes of Sir Patrick Stewart and Sir Ian McKellen.
It’s easy to forget that before Hannibal Lector there was Hannibal Lektor – Thomas Harris’s psychotic cannibal originally being portrayed by Cox in Michael Mann’s brilliantly 80s take on the first novel in the Silence Of The Lambs series, Red Dragon. Although the role was bolstered in the later remake that brought the story into Anthony Hopkins’ pantheon, Manhunter sees Lektor pop up for little more than a nevertheless mesmerising cameo. Cox plays Lektor as a little more urbane, a little more accessible, but no less terrifying. Essential viewing.
Churchill is available on digital platforms, Blu-ray and DVD from October 16th courtesy of Lionsgate Home Entertainment UK