Joe Wright’s Darkest Hour centers on Winston Churchill during his first few weeks as Prime Minister as Hilter begins to make moves across Europe. Belgium is falling, France has been invaded and the United Kingdom is painfully close to flying under the Nazi banner. Churchill is greeted with a plethora of difficult decisions that no one else dared make. He had to deal with Dunkirk, the backstabbing deals involving Norfolk and former Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, and his biggest battle – a peaceful surrender vs. a painful fight to preserve the country’s name.
Across the board Darkest Hour is a phenomenal film. Gary Oldman delivers a fantastic performance as Churchill, surrounded by a perfectly cast of supporting players including Lily James, Ben Mendelsohn, and Kristin Scott Thomas. Based on the subject matter alone director Joe Wright had a daunting task ahead of him, charged with bringing the revered Churchill to life, but he scores high marks for his efforts as he never lets an angle or shot go to waste. His ability to manuver through cracks and around corners brings an unusual sense of intimacy to the story. Combine that with the gorgeous cinematography and Anthony McCarten’s witty writing and the components come together beautifully.
Oldman, in one of the most powerful performances of his career, becomes Churchill. From his stature to his mumble to his bravado, he embodies the former Prime Minster in every facet of his being. He is supported by strong turns by Game of Thrones star Stephen Dilane as Viscourt Halifax and Ben Mendelsohn as King George VI (the same character that earned Colin Firth an Oscar in 2010’s The King’s Speech).
Not to be outdone, the woman also resonate as Lily James, fresh off her stellar performances in Edgar Wright’s Baby Driver, gives an amazing performance as Churchill’s secretary Elizabeth Layton, the voice of reason when his wife, Clementine, (played sensationally by veteran Kristin Scott Thomas) couldn’t be by his side.
Darkest Hour resonates loudly, warranting the Oscar buzz that surrounds everyone involved. A true testament to the power of history, don’t be surprised when it is mentioned in the same breath as The Queen and The King’s Speech.
This movie is not only going to be an Oscar contender and could also go down as a movie that is mentioned in the same breath as The Queen or the King’s Speech. While Christmas is going to be dominated by Star Wars, make time to go catch this movie and learn a little something about history. But good luck, you are going to have to search for the theater that is carrying it.