*CUT TO THE CHASE*
NOTE: This spoiler was submitted by Jeremy
May 1940 - A million German troops are at the Belgian Border with the intent to conquer the rest of Europe. In Britain, Parliament has lost faith in their current prime minister Neville Chamberlain (Ronald Pickup) and are already looking to find his replacement.
Every member of Parliament clamors in anger over Chamberlain's apparent inability to lead them as World War II has already begun, citing him as incompetent. What they want is a leader that can form a coalition party. During a dinner, the men gathered are all in favor of Foreign Secretary Lord Halifax (Stephen Dillane) to be the new Prime Minister, but while Halifax is grateful for the consideration, he claims his time has not yet come. Chamberlain then states that there is only one other man who will be accepted...and nobody else is pleased at this thought.
Elizabeth Layton (Lily James) is beginning her first day of work as secretary to Winston Churchill (Gary Oldman). As she enters his room, Churchill orders Elizabeth to start typing out a telegram to the French ambassador. He then receives a phone call from the ambassador himself to inform Churchill that the German troops have already invaded Holland and Belgium. Churchill tells Elizabeth to start a new telegram to General Hastings Ismay (Richard Lumsden) in light of the recent news. Churchill then becomes critical of Elizabeth's work, wherein he proceeds to yell and insult her, driving her out of the room in tears. Elizabeth runs into Churchill's wife Clementine (Kristin Scott Thomas), who is aware of what just happened. She goes to their bedroom to tell her husband that he has become rude and overbearing, and she would like others to love and respect him the way she does.
Churchill receives an official telegram from King George VI (Ben Mendelsohn) inviting him to meet at Buckingham Palace. George and Chamberlain are meeting prior to Churchill's arrival, with George having a lack of enthusiasm for having to pick Churchill, but Chamberlain says it's because Churchill was the only one with full support from the opposition. Once Churchill gets there, George officially offers him the position of Prime Minister.
Churchill begins his term as Prime Minister by addressing the members of Parliament. In his speech, he tells the men that he has already begun to form his coalition, and that he plans to wage war against the enemy to ensure victory at all costs and by any means necessary, counter to the previous discussions of peace talks with Germany. The men are visibly not confident.
Lord Halifax sits with Chamberlain outside after Churchill's speech. Halifax expresses his doubts over Churchill's capabilities as a leader. Chamberlain tells Halifax that he has cancer and fears he may not live to see his country at peace. Halifax comes up with a plan to try and get Churchill out by trying to have a vote of no confidence so that Chamberlain's policies may be reinstated. Chamberlain says they must get a written agreement from Churchill stating he will not agree to peace talks.
Churchill is informed that 300,000 British troops are stranded on the beaches of Dunkirk. The concern is sending in more troops to rescue those stranded. Churchill wants to keep this news from the public for now and is concerned about keeping France safe.
Churchill is frequently criticized by the other members of Parliament. Halifax meets with King George personally to discuss removing Churchill from his position.
Churchill addresses the nation over the radio, trying to assure the people that they will conquer their enemies. However, when he returns home, he tells Clementine he lied and that they are basically in full retreat. Clementine defends his actions by saying he would have done no good putting fear into everyone's thoughts.
Churchill is photographed making a backwards V sign in what he thinks means "victory", but Elizabeth informs him that in some parts of the country, the way he's doing it means "up your bum". The two share a hearty laugh over it.
Over the matter of the troops on Dunkirk, it is reported that just about all the British troops are stranded. After being informed of a nearby garrison, Churchill opts to send 4000 men to rescue the other 300,000. The other members think it's a suicide mission, but Churchill asserts his position and wants to go through with the evacuation plan. Churchill later calls President Franklin Roosevelt to ask if the U.S. may send 50 or 40 destroyers for help, but new laws prohibit Roosevelt from allowing it. Churchill then contacts Admiral Bertram Ramsay to allow for as many boats as possible to be sent out for the evacuation. This would be known as Operation Dynamo.
During another meeting with other lords, the subject of peace talks is brought up again. Churchill argues fiercely with Halifax over their opposing views on how to handle the ongoing war. Halifax gives Churchill 24 hours to negotiate peace talks, or he will resign.
Churchill has Elizabeth write out a telegram confirming that an evacuation will not take place, which visibly distresses her. She asks just how many men may survive. Churchill walks her to a map to illustrate the severity of the situation.
Churchill is informed that Belgium has surrendered, and France is set to follow suit. Churchill and his colleagues are urged to prepare for a possibly imminent invasion to their islands. It is then stated that Italy is willing to mediate peace talks between Britain, its allies, and Germany. Backed into a corner, Churchill has no choice but to agree to consider peace talks with Hitler, so long as he allows Britain to maintain its independence.
Elizabeth is typing out another telegram for Churchill, but she stops because she can't understand him due to his constant mumbling. Churchill then notices Elizabeth has a photo of a man, whom she says is her brother. She tells Churchill that he was falling back on Dunkirk but did not make it. He then understands her earlier distress with the Dunkirk situation.
King George visits Churchill over Mussolini's desire to barter with Hitler. George expresses his support for Churchill and says that while many were dreading his appointment as Prime Minister, none were more afraid than Hitler, as he believes Churchill has caused him to grow concern over his own position.
Churchill speaks to Ramsay again and is told they will send 860 vessels to Dunkirk, thereby initiating Dynamo.
Churchill takes the subway with civilians on his trip to Westminster. Many are in awe of seeing Churchill among them. One passenger lights his cigar for him. Churchill continues to mingle with everyone, showing a friendly and pleasant side to himself. Everyone appears to be in support of his stance to fight against the enemy instead of bowing to their will. Churchill is moved to tears by everyone's support before he exits the train.
Ultimately, Churchill decides completely against negotiating peace talks. In one more speech to Parliament, he addresses the possibility of invasion by the German army, but that they will fight on the beaches to the end so that victory may be inevitable. The members wave their handkerchiefs in approval of Churchill.
The final text states that almost all the 300,000 troops were rescued from Dunkirk by Churchill's civilian fleet. Neville Chamberlain died six months later. Halifax was removed from the war cabinet and sent to Washington. Five years later on May 5th, Britain and its allies declared victory. Churchill was voted out of office in the general election later that year. A final quote from the man reads, "Success is not final. Failure is not fatal. It is the courage to continue that counts."