Darkest Hour is a biographical war drama film directed by Joe Wright and written by Anthony McCarten. It stars Gary Oldman, Ben Mendelsohn, Kristin Scott Thomas, Lily James, Stephen Dillane, and Ronald Pickup.
The Story/The Direction:
This film follows the early days of Prime Minister Winston Churchill (Oldman) when Hitler is about to bomb Britain during 8-May and 4-June of 1940. He becomes Prime Minister early on in the film as he is the only person of his party that wants to oppose Hitler and fights him when other politicians want to strike a deal. During this time, he had to order a suicide attack to distract the Germans while the soldiers at Dunkirk are evacuated in Operation Dynamo. This order rescued 300,000 British soldiers as Belgium surrenders and France is about to. The Germans seem inevitable to invade Britain and the United State cannot intervene due to the Neutrality Acts of the 1930s. Britain is alone and Parliament is thinking they should give in to peace and the unnecessary deaths of soldiers. This was a time when Hitler was more looked at as a very effective authoritarian ruler rather than a murderous madman as the genocide has not started yet. It seemed easier to just give into Hitler's demands than to have many people killed. As the film's title states, this is Britain's darkest hour.
Director Wright is able to create a fairly straightforward film about Churchill's efforts to stand against Hitler and defeatists in Parliament. This film marks his return to a successful film after the flop that is Pan. This film is more of a historical reminder film rather than that of a story that is one that has not been told before. However, that does not make it any less interesting. The screenplay by McCarten, who also did The Theory of Everything, also adds humor to make the dark story more entertaining such as Churchill having breakfast in bed of whiskey, eggs, a cigar, and champagne and the meaning of his "victory" fingers. While not a film specifically all about Churchill, this film is able to give him enough background and also is supported by a brilliant performance by Oldman.
The supporting cast do serviceable jobs but the obvious standout of the film is Oldman as Churchill. This man is no saint and was mean to his secretary (James) when she was typing for him. This film also allows the film not only to be seen through her eyes but also Churchill's wife (Thomas) and other political opponents. Churchill is known to be this legend when it comes to WWII and his speeches during this time were monumental. He is a man who needs no introduction. While the audience knows that this is Oldman playing this man, it is almost like seeing Churchill on screen. He is able to give a performance that is completely transformative and he captures everything from the voice, the walk, and the look. He spent four hours in makeup designed by Kazuhiro Tsuji who did Men in Black, Planet of the Apes, Hellboy, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, and Looper to name a few films. He who was persuaded by Oldman out of retirement and the duo did a wonderful job to recreate ChurchilOldman has only been nominated for one Oscar, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, which was released in 2012. This man has had a career of fantastic roles and this performance is only another addition to that resume.
While the production values and the acting are solid aspects of the film, it honestly checks off the boxes for a standard biopic. The film also does not really expand to look at the overall aspect of WWII and only uses dialogue to attempt to tell the audience what's going on. Hitler is mentioned and Dunkirk is only shown quickly. This film does not have anything similar to what Wright did in Atonement in regard to Dunkirk. This can take away from the film because if an audience member does not know much about the events happening outside of Britain, this film does very little to help them understand the setting. The Underground scene was also not a real thing and does push the lines of corniness and shows Churchill more progressive than he actually was. However, it is nice to see him bonding with the black man after the man finishes his Lays of Ancient Rome by Thomas Babington Macaulay quote. This scene also does support the idea that Churchill was supported by the masses and was truly was a man of the people so it's not a terrible scene.
Churchill does not need a film to tell people who he was as his actions made history, however, this film supports them in the best way possible thanks to its script and the direction by Wright. The film has a good story that shows his important actions to those who have not heard of him in the future. Even though this film does not expand outside too far outside of Britain and the scene in the Underground may be a little corny for some, that does not diminish the power of Churchill’s well-known speeches. When Churchill gives the famous "We shall fight on the beaches" speech, it is powerful enough to motivate anyone. It is definitely worth checking out on the big screen or on Blu-ray for Oldman's performance. He delivers his potential Oscar-winning performance as Churchill and his performance alone allows this great film's flaws to be overlooked.
Rating: 4.0/5.0 bowties
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