Darkest Hour Movie Review (Spoiler Free)
A powerful biographical film, depicting the first month of Churchill’s tenure as Prime Minister. Gary Oldman is brilliant and the supporting cast couldn’t be stronger!
Genre: Biography / Drama / War
Director: Joe Wright
Cast: Gary Oldman, Kristin Scott Thomas, Lily James, Ben Mendelsohn, Ronald Pickup, Stephen Dillane, Nicholas Jones, Samuel West & David Schofield.
Run Time: 125 min.
US Release: 22 December 2017
UK Release: 12 January 2018
German Release: 18 January 2018
This is a biopic I was really looking forward to seeing in theatres since the first trailer hit the net. I need to confess that I am not the biggest fan of World War II movies, as it is a topic that has been chewed on for years and I do believe that there is little left we have not seen until now. A biography about Churchill, though, is something entirely different! It is a historical figure that I am in interested in, playing during the first month of his first term as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, a topic I simply could not pass on, especially with Gary Oldman in the lead role.
May 1940, British parliament is torn and the opposing Labour Party demands the resignation of PM Chamberlain (Pickup). Winston Churchill (Oldman) is chosen as his successor because he is the only man other parties will accept, even though he is not trusted by King George VI (Mendelsohn) and his own party. Meanwhile, the Nazi forces move across Europe, invading most of the western and eastern countries. With the threat of invasion imminent, Churchill must decide if to enter peace negotiations or stay firm against tyranny.
The only issue I have with Darkest Hour, and this is just minor nitpicking, is the fact that the story doesn’t show us anything different. At its core, it still is a re-telling of the events that occurred during the 1940’s, which we have seen so many times before. What is new, however, is the point of view we get it told from because while the Second World War is the central component of the plot, the focus lies on Churchill himself; focusing on the type of person he was and how he treated his family and the people that surrounded him. This angle in storytelling made for some surprisingly emotional moments that managed to squeeze a tear or two out of my eyes.
This film also gave a pretty decent inside look of the English parliament and the circus it can become when Labour and Tories are at each other’s throats. Equally, the audience obtains an inside view of the interior friction within the Tory party during that period. But what truly makes this a grand history epos is the little moments displayed in Churchill's life. His discussions between the Prime Minister and his wife, who gave him strength, as well as the small chats with his assistant, who believed in him strongly. These components reminded me of another biopic, that being Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln.
Gary Oldman was phenomenal as Winston Churchill! This is one of the best performances I have seen from him and he had given quite a few of them in his career. He won the Golden Globe for best actor rightly so, and it would be a shame if the Academy didn’t nominate him for an Oscar. His adaptation of Churchill’s speech patterns and mannerisms are perfect, in fact, while watching this film I never saw Oldman playing a role, but rather the great Prime Minister himself on screen. The picture does glorify the character but it also doesn’t shy away to show his rougher side. Churchill was a man with a short fuse and no patience, and we get to see those traits a lot, although, we also get to see some surprisingly softer nuances of his personality. These came to shine mostly during scenes with his wife.
Kristin Scott Thomas plays Churchill’s wife Clementine, Winston’s voice of reason and the only person that can calm his temper. He confides in her and she advises him on social engagement. Scott Thomas is warm and lovely, giving a marvellous rendition of the woman.
I am most impressed with Lily James, though, who plays Churchill’s new secretary Elizabeth Layton. At first timid and afraid of the Prime Minister, her character makes a grand development, becoming one of the Churchill’s most trusted advisors.
I need to give props to the makeup artist team, especially Kazuhiro Tsuji who worked on Oldman’s prosthetics, transforming him into Winston Churchill. The world looks fantastically true to the early 1940’s and that was mostly thanks to the set stages, costume designs and the design production. Cinematographically, it was simple but effective. The close-ups and different wide-shots heightened the sense of urgency and drama. One of my favourite scenes is when Churchill meets with King George VI; the room is dark, except for two windows letting in beams of light from the outside. Both characters are standing on those two beams, opposing each other, with nothing but shadow between them.
Verdict: The Darkest Hour is a well-directed, dramatic biopic, which depicts one of the biggest influential UK politicians, as well as a period that was most critical in British history. The speeches are historically correct and the plot interesting, since it focuses on Churchill as a human being, rather than using that historical figure to tell “another” World War II story. Gary Oldman is as brilliant as ever, carrying the film nearly by himself. Kristin Scott Thomas is wonderful as Clementine and Lily James gives her best performance to date. I was truly impressed by all the renditions! The makeup and costume design looked great, with Kazuhiro’s prosthetic mask of Churchill being the tip of the iceberg. The cinematography was good; especially the desaturated colour palette that complemented the period the movie played in. I’ll give Darkest Hour an 8.5 out of 10.
I can only advise you to go see this biographical drama! Thank you for reading my review and if you enjoyed it, give it a like and subscribe to my site.