Darkest Hour, 2017.
Directed by Joe Wright.
Starring Gary Oldman, Kristin Scott Thomas, Lily James, Ben Mendelsohn, Ronald Pickup and Stephen Dillane.
During the early days of World War II, the fate of Western Europe hangs on the newly-appointed British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, who must decide whether to negotiate with Hitler, or fight on against incredible odds.
After the failure of 2015’s Pan, Joe Wright returns to more comfortable territory with a blistering drama about the early days of Churchill’s reign as Prime Minister during World War II. The question is, should Britain negotiate with Hitler or continue fighting the battle. Wright handles the subject matter expertly and Gary Oldman delivers one of his finest performances in years.
Oldman has been winning awards left, right and centre this awards season and deservedly so. His portrayal of Churchill is captivating and he elevates Anthony McCarten’s screenplay to another level. Lengthy scenes of dialogue feel tenser then an action packed battle sequence because of Oldman’s commanding presence. Many actors would be lost under such heavy prosthetics (which deserve recognition in their own right) but Oldman becomes Churchill and delivers a truly chameleonic performance. Whilst it can be argued that Oldman should already be an Oscar winner (so far he has only been nominated for Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and has been overlooked for a number of tremendous performances) it is almost guaranteed that he will win this year.
A good film can’t just rely on one solid central performance. In Wright’s capable hands, Darkest Hour becomes an engrossing and emotionally resonant piece of film making. Whilst we know the outcome of Churchill’s time as PM, it doesn’t detract from the importance of the political scheming that went on during this time in our history. It takes a skilled director to make this accessible for audiences and to make it entertaining. McCarten’s screenplay doesn’t shy away from the tough choices Churchill made and the many casualties of war. Wright chooses to avoid action sequences, instead focusing on aerial views of bombings, juxtaposed against Churchill standing alone. Cinematographer Bruno Delbonnel has created some stunning and iconic shots that only add to the isolation of Churchill during this time.
Further acting support comes from Kristin Scott-Thomas as Churchill’s loyal wife Clemmie, who provides some much needed levity to proceedings. Ben Mendelsohn as King George VI is brilliant as always and Lily James as Churchill’s faithful secretary Elizabeth Layton delivers a solid performance.
Darkest Hour feels extremely relevant given the current political climate. In a world consumed by Brexit, Donald Trump, increase in hate crimes and so much more, it’s refreshing to watch a film that embraces strength and the desire to stand up and do what is right.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★