An absolute brilliant performance that will define a career.
Directed by: Joe Wright
Starring: Gary Oldman, Kristin Scott Thomas, Lily James
Some performances come along that once the film is over the audience just sits back and needs to catch their breath. This portrayal of Winston Churchill by Gary Oldman is one such performance. There isn’t anything over the top or incredibly dramatic. No grandiose empowering scenes that give you goosebumps or stir up a range of emotions. It is his full transformation into another person completely that has you reminding yourself constantly of who that actor is and what they look and sound like in real life. Yes, his speeches to Parliament declaring England will remain in the war and fight for their land is memorable but they don’t stand out against the overall entirety of the film. Once you begin to compare performances like Commissioner Gordan from The Dark Knight trilogy or Sirius Black from the Harry Potter franchise or Dracula from Bram Stokers Dracula or even as the Reverend from The Scarlet Letter you’ll gain an even greater appreciation for this performance, as well as one for Oldman as an actor overall. (in case you didn’t already have one)
Darkest Hour is a good film. It deals with the decision to switch away from Neville Chamberlain as Prime Minister and go to a more “war-time” style decision maker in Winston Churchill. England was on the precipice of possibly being invaded by Germany and losing not only the war but their country and freedom. The decision was not a popular one as Churchill was regarded as wreck-less and aloof at times. Many members of Parliament even favored entering into peace talks with Hitler just to avoid invasion.
Clemmie Churchill, played wonderfully by Kristin Scott Thomas is Winstons wife and his compass throughout the film. She is the only person who can look him in the eye and tell him bluntly what he needs to hear. Her main contribution is reminding him of the kind and cordial man he used to be. This helps him soften his rough exterior and allow his new assistant, played by Lily James, to get close to him.
Lily James does a truly solid job in what could be the best performance of her young, albeit brief, career. Her character allows you to see through her eyes the struggle and emotions that the resident commoner was feeling during those times in England. She adds the human element to the film that may draw out a tear or two.
If you have seen Dunkirk then I think you will appreciate this movie more. The main story centers around the choices made by Churchill and military brass to get their troops off the beaches of Dunkirk and exactly how they’ll do so. It gives more “behind the scenes” explanations towards the amount of sacrifice it took and the calculating of lives being risked versus how many will be saved to accomplish such a mission.
There isn’t actually much more plot depth than what I’ve mentioned so far. The film is very good but I was actually a bit surprised to see it nominated for Best Picture in this years Oscars. I feel it tried to add depth in its character building of Churchill when it truly didn’t need too. It is a bit of a slow burn learning which members of Parliament were for or against him, as well as which side of the fence the King himself leaned. The majority of the film feels more like a Churchill documentary than about anything introduced in the two-week timeline that spans the plot.
If interested in World War Two or you enjoyed Dunkirk I will highly recommend this film to you. If you’re looking for solid acting, makeup and set design then again I say this film is one you will be pleased with. Outside of that, the story didn’t truly grab me as it may have for other folks.
Because of Oldman and the fact this is a Best Picture nominee I fully recommend seeing this movie soon! You won’t be disappointed.
7 out of 10