When your reputation is on the line, what do you do? Stand and fight for what is right, or give into the endless parade of voices telling you that you won’t be successful. Motivational to say the least, essential viewing for our youth.
This, is Darkest Hour.
Darkest Hour (2017)
Cast: Gary Oldman, Lily James, Kristin Scott Thomas, Ben Mendelsohn
Director: Joe Wright
released on blu-ray February 20, 2018
Rotten Tomatoes: 86%, Audience Score 83%
The Guardian: ****/*****
Joe Wright is an English film director. Best known for Pride & Prejudice, Atonement, Hanna, Anna Karenina, Pan, and most recently Darkest Hour. As you can see, he generally sticks to British content, which as the old adage says “write what you know.” Fortunately for me, and this review, Darkest Hour is his best rated film to-date, and demonstrably so given that Gary Oldman won the Best Actor Oscar for his performance.
I’ve been known to have a difficult time getting invested into war films, but luckily for us, this is a drama set within war-times. Easily digested and taken with some milk.
Special thanks to IMDB user Nick Riganas for the synopsis.
With Europe on the threshold of World War II as Hitler’s armies rampage across the continent’s once proud nations, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Neville Chamberlain (Ronald Pickup), is forced to resign, appointing Winston Churchill (Gary Oldman) as his replacement. But even in his early days as the country’s leader, Churchill is under pressure to commence peace negotiations with the German dictator or to fight head-on the seemingly invincible Nazi regime, whatever the cost. However difficult and dangerous his decision may be, Winston Churchill has no choice, but to shine in his darkest hour.
I can say with absolute certainty that this film benefits greatly from it’s first act, in which major players are established, and we become invested in the relationship between Clemmie Churchill, deftly played by Kristin Scott Thomas, and Winston. And this is crucial because without his wife humanizing his behaviour, Churchill is hardly a man at all, merely a brute trapping about in “a state of nature.”
It’s a dense story, with lots of oration, conversations behind closed doors, and tense speeches that appeal to our sense of reason. It is well established with Oldman at the helm, but there are definitely moments that I wish could have been cut, to make it feel quite literally set at a brisk pace, rather then eluded to with video and audio editing.
Pros: As I mentioned already Oldman is magnetic, but it’s the dynamic between Thomas and him that really sets the story on fire. And Lily James plays her role perfectly.
Cons: Despite all of the stirring speeches, somehow a great political figure has been simplified to the point where you wonder if he’ll pull it all off, making the actor great, but the film a little dull. And Ben Mendelsohn is featured far too little.
The first few weeks of Churchill’s ministry included subterfuge amongst his political peers, navigating the disaster of Dunkirk, and rousing a nation into action. Nothing less then spectacular when you think about it. There is no denying it, Gary Oldman is Churchill personified under that makeup, which is why the film works so well.
Runtime: 2 hours 5 minutes
Points of Interest: While Winston Churchill did regularly speak with the public on their opinion of the war efforts, there is no official record of him taking a train and quizzing it’s passengers. The entire movie takes place during May 1940, around the time of Operation Dynamo at Dunkirk.
This is a story which has been told and retold a few times over, and yet, somehow it has been made fresh for a new generation, with a distinct perspective from competing entries Their Finest, and Christopher Nolan’s Dunkrik. And it’s more interesting then both of them.
If you can forgive the film itself of a few flaws, there is a lot to glean from the performances of this stories leads. And yes, I recommend watching it at least once, I myself have seen it twice now, and I can say with confidence that while it may have been Britain’s Darkest Hour, there is a fair amount of light in this story.
And speaking of war, violence and strong character stories. You should definitely check out this Watch Culture video review on 2015’s Sicario. Mike helmed this video on his lonesome, and there are a ton of great anecdotes to pull from his review. So watch it, watch it, watch it, watch it!
I’d love to hear what you think of Mike’s review and of course tell us if you plan on checking out Darkest Hour. I know you’ll get something out of both flicks, but either way… Check it out! And remember… Like! Comment! Subscribe!