Darkest Hour

Darkest Hour should maybe be called Darkest Month. In 1940, Winston Churchill was asked by the King to take over as Prime Minister. It was a shitty time to get the job: Hitler was marching his Nazi army across Europe, and the threat of invasion was uncomfortably close. During this particular month, Churchill’s first on the job, he’s got an impossible task. He must decide whether to negotiate a treaty with Hitler, or whether to stand firm against the Nazis but in so doing risk his country. And he had to do this without his party’s support or the public’s understanding or any help from the King.

Winston Churchill is an iconic and influential figure in British history and he’s been portrayed with varying success by some truly venerable actors:  Albert Finney, lead_960Brendan Gleeson, Timothy Spall, Robert Hardy, and most recently by John Lithgow in The Crown. He is not a saintly figure. He was a great orator but had some problematic positions that hindsight can’t afford to be kind about. Portrayals of him often emphasize his omnipresent cigar, and his particular style of speech (his custom dentures helped cover up a lisp). Gary Oldman is the gentleman tasked with bring old Winnie to life in Darkest Hour, and though he’s seen chomping on the necessary cigars, he turns the performance into something truly remarkable.

Oldman is transformed by makeup and prosthetics; his jowls are considerable. His tics and posture help render him unrecognizable. He dissolves into character. As Churchill he delivers some of history’s most famous and familiar speeches and he is electrifying. Kristin Scott Thomas as his tell-it-like-it-is wife, Lily James as his newbie secretary, and Ben Mendelsohn as the King help round out the cast but Darkest Hour feels like a one man show and Oldman is equal to the cast. Truthfully I don’t know many others who could carry 125 minutes of infamy, but Gary Oldman deserves his frontman status in all the Oscar pools. His portrayal is vigorous and complex and maybe even a little bit compassionate.

As for the movie itself, it’s not quite as formidable. The events are told simply, without a lot of cinematic flair, and it sometimes feels sluggish. There’s not a lot of imagination on display, and perhaps that’s an unfair criticism with the burden of historical accuracy weighing heavily, but director Joe Wright is more precise than entertaining. It’s Oldman who kept me in my seat, and I’m sure it’ll be Oldman bounding out of his on Oscar night to collect his well-deserved award.

Advertisements

23 thoughts on “Darkest Hour

  1. Pingback: Oscar Nominations 2018 | ASSHOLES WATCHING MOVIES

  2. thelonelyauthorblog

    Thank you for this review. I haven’t had a chance to see the film, but I will soon. Even if the movie is not as good as I had hoped, I would like to see Oldman’s performance.

    So your review didn’t disappoint. Thank you.

    Like

    Reply
    1. Jay Post author

      I wasn’t really tempted by it but as I try to watch all the Oscar-nominated films I can before the broadcast, this one needed to be seen. And I don’t regret it. It’s a fascinating subject even if it’s fairly well tread. And Oldman really is as good as they say.

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply
  3. Paul. Writer and Filmmaker

    Great review as usual. Oldman indeed steals the show. While lacking Joe Wright’s usual directorial risk- taking as seen in the likes of Atonement, Hanna and Anna Karenina, I felt the lighting was impressive from a cinematic perspective. The framing and photography trapped the characters on the screen as the darkness closed in.

    Like

    Reply
  4. raistlin0903

    I havent’ seen this one yet, but from the trailers i’ve seen and the pictures it’s amazing what they did too Gary Oldman in Transforming him into Churchill. He is just such an amazing actor. I really hope he will win…because he very much deserves it after all this time 😊😊

    Like

    Reply
  5. Katrina Morrison

    I am so happy you recommend this movie. I saw Oldman on the Graham Norton show. He shared a clip of himself in Winnie makeup doing an impression of Churchill impersonating James Brown … dance and all, on the good foot. I knew then I had to see Oldman in this movie 😊

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
  6. D. Wallace Peach

    Great review. I can’t wait to see Oldman’s performance, and I’m glad that the film stuck to history without a lot of embellishment. For many of us, this history is before our time, and the film is perhaps a chance for a peek into world events that we otherwise wouldn’t get. 🙂

    Like

    Reply
  7. Widdershins

    It captured the time so well. England was alone, Europe had fallen, Hitler’s thugs were 30 kilometers away, the walls were closing in. The lighting, and lack of it, the claustrophobic sets, the colour palette, all set the stage for the actors to do their thing … and do it they did. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
  8. J.

    I’ve been curious about this one since seeing the trailer before The Last Jedi… my interest is more about seeing Gary Oldman than the movie itself, though.

    Like

    Reply
  9. Tom

    Gary was just breathtaking in this! You’re right that the movie around him doesn’t quite match the intensity but this is that rare time when a single performance pretty much elevates everything in the movie. Oh, he’s just gotta win!

    Like

    Reply
  10. Jean Reinhardt

    I recently saw this movie at the cinema and if you like any history concerning WW2, then you will certainly be delighted with it. I agree that is was more of a lesson than an enthralling movie but that’s what kept me interested – and, of course, the excellent performance from Gary Oldman.

    Like

    Reply
  11. Pingback: Beyond Tannhauser Gate | Books, More Robots, and MoviesBooks, More Robots, and Movies - Beyond Tannhauser Gate

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s