Directed by: Joe Wright
Written by: Anthony McCarten
Producers: Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Anthony McCarten, Lisa Bruce, Douglas Urbanski
Starring: Gary Oldman, Kristen Scott Thomas, Lily James, Stephen Dillane, Ronald Pickup and Ben Mendelsohn.
Set over the course of four weeks in 1940, Darkest Hour is based on the true story of Winston Churchill and the immense burden he carried as newly-appointed Prime Minister when Nazi Germany invaded Western Europe.
It’s a critical time in history. A decision must be made to either fight in another world war against all odds, the Germans surrounding the entire British army on the shores of Dunkirk – or to negotiate with a madman.
The fight on Dunkirk is fresh in the minds of film enthusiasts after the recent release of Christopher Nolan’s memorable, ‘not-a-war movie’, Dunkirk.
Darkest Hour shows a different version of WWII, focussing on the same time in history yet here the story unfolds not on the ground – the soldiers dodging bullets or falling into the icy waters – here, we follow the men making the decisions and observe the politics and strategies of war held behind closed doors. And with Churchill, sometimes the most important conversation taken on the telephone behind the door of the lavatory.
Darkest Hour is based on the beginnings of WWII, yes, but the story is about the man – Winston Churchill and all his flaws. A man who has never taken the tube (well, only once during the strikes), a man whose wife (Kristen Scott Thomas) finds him intolerable but loves him anyway. And no matter his power or position will always know him as, Piggy.
Churchill never gives up, and it’s precisely his flaws that give him the strength to succeed.
Gary Oldman is every bit deserving of his recent Golden Globe award for Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama. See his acceptance speech here.
As Winston Churchill, Oldman’s barely recognisable as he embraces the part and becomes every bit the British Prime Minister affecting all the required mannerisms of the mumbling, alcoholic, cigar smoking, yet brilliant mind and oration of the man.
Ben Mendelsohn finally gets to be the good guy, here as King George VI. Not the regal performance of Colin Firth in, The King’s Speech (2010) but suiting the tone of the film better with the gritty human nature of the characters used for amusement amongst all the seriousness of the story.
And there’s not many tricks here – director Joe Wright (Atonement, Hanna, Pride & Prejudice, Anna Karenina) keeping any effects subtle with a sometimes lofty birds-eye-view to convey the overall feeling of politicians seeing the population as small parts to be manuvered for the greater good.
Mostly, this is a character-driven film, focussing on the dialogue and emotion of those who discuss the fortunes of thousands of lives. We, as an audience, get a window into the world of Churchill as he weighs the cost; to ultimately decide no cost is too much – there is only perseverance to fight until the very end.
So, for all Churchill’s flaws, we are shown true grit and the character required when the world ceases to make sense. And can the man speak! The real pleasure of the film watching Churchill use his words to win over a nation, his famous speeches delivered by the believable performance of Gary Oldman.
Would I watch the film again? Probably not. This isn’t a thriller that keeps you on the edge, this is a stirring education and insight into just how close we came to losing our freedom.