DARKEST HOUR Movie Review: Gary Oldman delivers a master class in acting
An exceptional showcase of talent where the historical character of Winston Churchill who has its shares of hate and buffoonery gets transformed into an enduring and entertaining performance that is intense and long lasting.
Thespian Gary Oldman is pure charisma beneath those jowly cheeks and trademark cigar delivering a performance that makes you speak only in superlatives in this full-bodied and well-studied version of Churchill on screen. Gary Oldman as Churchill in DARKEST HOUR does the impossible; the master actor makes Churchill better, greater, passionate and more human as the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom for those 125 minutes.
Joe Wright (ATONEMENT, PRIDE & PREJUDICE) is back to his classy period dramas and captures the other side of the Dunkirk evacuation in DARKEST HOUR – An entertaining, compelling and enlightening piece of cinema that reminds us that we should never ever give up on our fight for honor and freedom.
The third movie in recent times about the Operation Dynamo after Christopher Nolan’s war epic DUNKIRK and Lone Scherfig’s war comedy THEIR FINEST, Joe Wright’s DARKEST HOUR is more theatrical and nostalgic that creates a déjà vu of the black and white era in between. While Christopher Nolan’s war epic was on the battlefield, Joe Wright takes us to a dramatic and political journey during those times in United Kingdom.
Anthony McCarten (DEATH OF A SUPERHERO) pens an absorbing and populist drama from an episode during the early days of World War II. With the fall of France imminent Britain faces its darkest hour as the threat of invasion looms. As the seemingly unstoppable Nazi forces advance, and with the Allied army cornered on the beaches of Dunkirk, the fate of Western Europe hangs on the leadership of the newly-appointed British Prime Minister Winston Churchill (Golden Globe winner and Oscar nominee Gary Oldman). While dealing with his political rivals, he must confront the ultimate choice - negotiate with Hitler and save the British people at a terrible cost or rally the nation and fight on against incredible odds.
After a few minutes Churchill is introduced to us sitting in the dark of his own bedroom, as he lights his cigar, the jowly Gary Oldman makes a striking connection with the historical figure and the audience that never fades, such is the power of Gary Oldman’s superlatively winning performance which is the movie’s biggest asset.
Joe Wright with his proven hand in period drama takes the journey beginning from May 9, 1940 to the days to Operation Dynamo, the director captures the aura of the era splendidly with those 18th-century painting, the house of commons, moving from close bunker-like cabinet war rooms beneath Westminster Palace to Churchill’s own private residence bringing the historical figure’s more human side to the audience. The only politician in U.K who stood against Hitler and had the courage to declare war while others wanted peace is done in a crowd pleasing populist way. The speeches are the highlights and done with perfection.
The production values are solid. Technically its brilliant, especially Kazuhiro Tsuji exemplary make up makes Gary Oldman almost unrecognizable.
The supporting cast chips in with valuable support. Kristin Scott Thomas as Churchill’s wife has her moments. Ben Mendelsohn as King George VI is fantastic. Lily James as the typist is fine. Ronald Pickup and Stephen Dillane give full justice to their roles.
Writer McCarten creates a world of Churchill which is different from his known believe and approach. The London underground train sequence were he interfaces directly with people regardless of race or class and later delivers the speech that made Churchill write his own history, is open for debates.
Joe Wright has painted a picture of Churchill in DARKEST HOUR which is more human and cinematic. Cinematic art cannot rewrite history. History cannot be changed. People in this part of the world also remember Churchill for his comment on India as “A godless land of snobs and bores”, the debate will be always on but as a cinema DARKEST HOUR is a winner. It’s an absorbing and entertaining portrayal of the man who stood against all odds in his fight against the Nazis. Churchill was voted out of the house in the next term after the operation but he remained in history as the movie ends with his famous motivational quote “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”
DARKEST HOUR will remain in history as Gary Oldman master class in portraying a more human and passionate Churchill that many don’t know, the actor has given his blood, toil, sweat and tears for this role. We are going with 4 stars - an extra for the magnificent Gary Oldman
- Actor: Gary Oldman, Stephen Dillane, Ronald Pickup, Ben Mendelsohn
- Actress: Kristin Scott Thomas, Lily James
- Director: Joe Wright
- Music Director: Dario Marianelli
- Cinematography: Bruno Delbonnel
- Editor: Valerio Bonelli
- Writer: Anthony McCarten
- Producer: Tim Bevan, Lisa Bruce, Eric Fellner, Anthony McCarten, Douglas Urbanski
- Production house: Perfect World Pictures, Working Title Films