THERE have been many great actors who have played Winston Churchill before - all capturing the great Briton in their own way.

Richard Burton, Albert Finney, Robert Hardy, Michael Gambon and Timothy Spall have swigged the brandy and smoked the cigars.

Made the speeches and left the mark.

Brian Cox does that too and more in his stunning portrayal of Winston.

But whereas other leading stars have tried to master that famous lisping voice, Mr Cox doesn't.

He captures the tone perfectly in his own way.

When Winston is being angry he shows it; when he has a twinkle in his eye as delivers a humorous remark he captures that, too.

This latest big screen bio-pic of Churchill (cert PG) is set 1,736 days into World War Two in 1944.

We first see a pensive Winston in black overcoat, hat and walking stick strolling along a beach.

He looks at the sea and it is blood red.

This frail man mentally pictures the blood of those soldiers lost in the first World War when he failed at the battle of Gallipoli.

It is a theme that the film returns to.

Guilt, remorse ... regrets.

The opening scene then turns briefly into black and white as he steps over bodies.

Churchill is a beautifully-filmed piece of work that does not venture into loud, gory battle scenes.

All the action takes place in military offices and stately homes and ever so British gardens.

We see Churchill in his Downing Street annexe bunker, but there are no battle scenes.

He merely talks about them and sends irate telegrams.

Instead, we see and hear a man at war with his own conscience.

As the clock ticks away before the D-Day landings 'Operation Over Lord' Churchill argues with General Dwight 'Ike' Eisenhower and Montgomery.

He feels he is just a chess piece in their tactical board game.

Winston is the Prime minister who can only sit and listen as the military men plot the invasion and wish he would remain in Number 10.

We see Churchill praying to God to intervene in the impending bloodshed.

He cries alone.

He is also 'slapped' by the only person who can stand up to him - his 'rock' Clemmie his wife, played by Miranda Richardson.

It is wordy and sometimes repetitive in the storytelling as scenes go over the same ground.

But from start to emotional end Brian Cox captures the man who graces our five pound notes.

Of course the film uses dramatic licence: Churchill starts to believe he is a 'clapped out old lion' only fit 'for stuffing.' 

King George VI wants Winston to stay at home in Blighty during a passionate but dignified plea for him to keep morale high which he later ddoes with his famous radio broadcasts.

We will never know what was actually said between King and PM but the one-hour-45-minute movie conveys the respect the country had for him in our darkest hours.

The script captures the tensions and performances are all finely tuned.

Eisenhower, played by American actor John Slattery, is commanding throughout.

It is a film where you get to see the stubborness of Churchill the man – his deep depression.

And we can admire his spirit, his vision - his genius.

Brian Cox gives a magnificent performance of the greatest Briton that ever lived – a lion who still roars from the pages of the history books and now our cinema screens.

Mr Cox deserves a BAFTA for his considerable skills.

It is a Shakespearean interpretation of a flawed yet inspirational hero.

A unique war film - Four stars 

Opens today, June 16