Only 8 months into a global war that would last 6 years, Britain reached a pivotal point that almost led to the end of the empire. Darkest Hour focuses in on May 1940 as Neville Chamberlain, played by Ronald Pickup, resigns as prime minister and Winston Churchill, played by Gary Oldman, takes over the premiership. While Churchill’s war council is pushing for peace negotiations, he is forced to stand alone for the fight against Hitler. At least, that is how the situation is portrayed in Darkest Hour.
Joe Wright’s Darkest Hour is a theatrical drama showcasing Gary Oldman’s acting ability. Oldman is paired with the always amazing Kristin Scott Thomas, as Clementine Churchill, and Ben Mendelsohn, as King George VI. In addition to the great acting, Darkest Hour has several atypical shot sequences that help emphasize the story perfectly. For example, the opening sequence starts off as a bird’s-eye view of parliament, emphasizing the magnitude and the fury of the parliament floor. We see the chaos and the passion on display as the camera cranes down to the floor. Diving us right into the thick of the all consuming topic at hand. Later, there is a scene where Churchill is speaking with FDR on the phone. As the conversation progresses the sides of the frame close in creating a narrow picture in the middle, like a phone booth. This helps emphasize the isolation that Churchill is feeling and adds a dimension to the film that you do not usually see.
Darkest Hour takes a more theatrical approach to the historical drama genre than its counterpart Dunkirk. By theatrical, I mean that Darkest Hour feels like a play. The journal-esque flow of the story line and powerful stage lighting brings a less authentic feel than Dunkirk. However, it allows for a deep focus on Churchill’s state of mind and process through that difficult time. Oldman’s fervorous portrayal of Churchill is both inspiring and hopeful.
As usual Gary Oldman crushes it. He always succeeds in embodying his characters and displaying a spectacular performance (e.g. Sid Vicious, Dracula, Drexl, Stansfield in Leon:The Professional, Jean-Baptiste Emanuel Zorg, Mason Verger, the list goes on and on). I have not seen all of the performances for best actor this year, but I will be surprised if Gary Oldman does not win the Oscar for best actor.
Directed by: Joe Wright
Cinematography: Bruno Delbonnel
Writeen by: Anthony McCarten
Edited by: Valerio Bonelli
Music by: Dario Marianelli
Starring: Gary Oldman, Kristin Scott Thomas, Ben Mendelsohn, Lily James
Runtime: 2h 5m
Genre: Biography, Drama, History
Distributed by: Focus Features