With Hitler invading Europe, British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain’s credibility is in tatters. A successor must be sought quickly but there is only one that all the political parties agree on: Winston Churchill. A bombastic, bewildering political beast from a bygone age, serious concerns swirl around Westminster at the mere mention of his name: Can he be trusted to meet the oncoming Nazi war machine as well as attacks from inside his own government? …
In this defining period of Winston Churchill’s life, the challenge of mastering both his accent and his meter was never going to be an issue for Gary Oldman. Mired in brandy as much as he was cigar smoke, Churchill is an easy figure for imitation. However from his first gravelly intonations in ‘The Darkest Hour’, any concerns about trite imitation are quickly laid to rest. Neither distant nor divorced from reality, Oldman quickly makes the role his own, infusing Churchill’s personality through layers and layers of prosthetics. Immediately and convincingly he is Churchill, and like Ben Mendelsohn’s King George, both actors quickly disappear into their on-roles, leaving their characters behind onscreen.
… a biopic that paints a portrait of Churchill caught in crosshairs of history.
At war with his party, his King and his conscience, director, Joe Wright’s ‘The Darkest Hour’ is a biopic that paints a portrait of Churchill caught in crosshairs of history and with only the support of his wife (played by Kirstin Scott Thomas) to count upon. Together with Stephen Dillane as the scheming Lord Halifax, Samuel West as confidente Sir Anthony Eden and Ronald Pickup as the outgoing Neville Chamberlain, The Darkest Hour is awash with seasoned and credible acting talent.
Although not as cinematic as ‘Dunkirk’, ’The Darkest Hour’ actually covers the history leading up to Christoper Nolan’s big screen epic, all of which (unintentionally) creates an appetising triple bill of movies. Neatly segueing from one to another in terms of history, ‘The Darkest Hour’ opens with Europe under attack, moving onto ‘Dunkirk’s’ ground-level assault to ‘Churchill’s’ machiavellian antics ahead of the pivotal ‘D’ Day assault.
In this respect and much to its credit, ’The Darkest Hour’ doesn’t make the mistake of trying to bite off too much of the available history. With an academy-award attractive performance by Gary Oldman and a dangerously scene stealing cameo by Ben Mendelsohn, ‘The Darkest Hour’ humanises both the life and death decisions that Churchill must face and the doubts that dog his rise to power.
Inheriting the poisoned chalice of a country about to be invaded, dewindling resources and scarcer confidence, ‘The Darkest Hour’ is a riveting 205 minutes of Winston Churchill’s bluff, bravery and bravado that steers a confident course between both history and entertainment. To see ‘The Darkest Hour’ is good, however to see the whole triptych of ‘The Darkest Hour, ‘Dunkirk’ and ‘Churchill’ is to complete an even better portrait of a man in crisis.