Lest anyone be confused (and I highly doubt they will be) this is not a review of the atrocious doomsday alien invasion thriller from 2011. Instead this is director Joe Wright’s biographical wartime drama based on Winston Churchill’s early days as England’s Prime Minister. Quite a difference, right?
In early May of 1940 Hitler’s army has made major advances and now stands at the Belgian border preparing to push through in their efforts to conquer what remains of Europe. On May 9th a frustrated British Parliament demands the resignation of Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain due to his weakness in the face of the rising Nazi threat.
Behind the scenes Chamberlain (Ronald Pickup) and his followers are still pulling the political strings. With the backing of King George (played by a perfectly tempered Ben Mendelsohn), Chamberlain seeks to put in someone who will continue to push his agenda. But it becomes clear there is only one man the divided parties will accept – Winston Churchill (Gary Oldman).
By now there should be no one doubting Gary Oldman’s tremendous range. He’s played a drugged-out dirty cop, a Russian terrorist, and a corrupt U.S. congressman. He’s played Sid Vicious, Lee Harvey Oswald, Count Dracula and now Winston Churchill. Thanks to the miracle of makeup and prosthetics as well as Oldman’s innate attention to detail, you instantly buy into this particular portrait of Churchill. The barely recognizable but thoroughly captivating Oldman delivers an Oscar-ripe performance that draws from his varied skill set.
The script is from Oscar-nominated screenwriter Anthony McCarten whose previous work was the acclaimed Stephen Hawking biopic “The Theory of Everything”. Here he pours everything into his lead character. He gives Oldman plenty of opportunities to sink his teeth into the role without resorting to gimmicky “Awards-worthy” big moments. Also McCarten is smart enough not to overextend his story. This isn’t meant to be a comprehensive biopic and the film’s tighter focus works.
A good chunk of the movie highlights the political wrangling Churchill faced by his opposition who desperately wanted peace talks with Hitler. It begins to feel a bit drawn out but most of it is pretty fascinating. And I really enjoyed the personal moments we get especially between Churchill and his wife Clementine (wonderfully played by Kristin Scott Thomas). There is also the relationship between Churchill and Elizabeth Nel (Lily James), a young typist who eventually became his personal secretary. Their scenes are nicely done and offer a window into a different side of Churchill.
“Darkest Hour” maneuvers through Churchill’s appointment to Prime Minister, the political tensions that undoubtedly wore him down, the looming Nazi threat, and Operation Dynamo which saw the evacuation of over 300,000 troops stranded on the beaches of Dunkirk. But the movie never loses sight of the personal side of this larger than life character. At the same time Joe Wright offers up compelling and timely lessons on conviction, persuasion, and the power of bipartisanship – all things our current governments could learn from.
VERDICT – 4 STARS
Oh far far far better than that Alien version jeez. Beyond comparison.
LOL. I couldn’t help myself.
I am forever going to get confused by the title! I’m glad this one is much better than the terrible alien movie though 😀
HA! Yes! Thankfully this one is head and shoulders above that other atrocity!
I have long been a Churchill admirer and have read much about him . I was looking forward to seeing this movie and now know with certainty , I will enjoy it . I doubt the world will ever see another like him .
Very true. And if you’re an admirer I have no doubts you’ll enjoy this. The performance is simply sublime. I’d really be interested in what you think.
I will be seeing it this week . I will definitely let you what I thought .
I seen this movie a few years back. Them kids was in Russia and the Aliens came and then they hid and came back out. That was one of the best pictures I ever seen. Glad you finally picked a worthwhile movie film to review.
I concur, with maybe even greater enthusiasm.
Good to hear. This was a good one and just another testament to Gary Oldman’s brilliance.
I’m glad to hear this is good because I still cannot get excited for it, but I know I’ll have to see it eventually because Oldman is probably winning an Oscar for it.
It’s good. It’s very focused on the war room stuff and political wrangling. But there are some good personal moments as well. And Oldman…WOW.
Oldman’s move and he deserves the Best Actor. Let’s go home.
No doubt. You can’t even find Gary Oldman in that portrayal. Absolutely stunning.
And after last night the Oscar outlook looks even brighter for him.
Chris Hemsworth’s gonna star in more Thor movies after Avengers 4
Yep. No doubt.
I can’t wait to see Oldman’s transformation into Churchill.
My friend he is sooo good. There is a good reason he won the Golden Globe and he has to be considered the Oscar frontrunner.
He’s a chameleonic actor who completely immerses himself in the material so I have a good idea that he’s going to be impressive here.
Great review lots of detail. Come read my first film review here https://portraitsofanation.wordpress.com/2018/01/15/some-quick-thoughts-on-darkest-hour/
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Overall, Darkest Hour is a solid but not sensational historical drama.All actors performance is great especially the gary oldman.
Great performances for sure. I did like it but I wouldn’t have given it a Best Picture nomination.
A wonderfully written review that gives the reader an insight into the story, something so-called film critics fail to do. I don’t think it will win Best Picture, but I do hope Gary Oldman wins Best Actor for his portrayal.
I appreciate the kind words. I think it would be a stunner if Oldman doesn’t win Best Actor. Stranger things have happened but I think this is his year.