Film Review – Darkest Hour (2017)

Title – Darkest Hour (2017)

Director – Joe Wright (Anna Karenina)

Cast – Gary Oldman, Lily James, Ben Mendelsohn, Kristin Scott Thomas, Stephen Dillane, Ronald Pickup

Plot – Examines the early days of World War 2 where new English Prime Minister Winston Churchill (Oldman) faces an uphill battle to remain in power while leading his country in its darkest hour against the Nazi army swarming through Europe.

“You cannot reason with a tiger, when your head is in its mouth”

Review by Eddie on 12/02/2018

Death and taxes, the certainties in life, now have a friend; Gary Oldman the 2018 Best Actor Oscar winner.

Like the certainty of our ever encroaching end, there is no chance that well-respected British icon Gary Oldman won’t be walking away from this year’s Oscar’s ceremony without a golden statue for his mantelpiece for his stunning and tour-de-force performance as esteemed English prime minister Winston Churchill.

Dominating Joe Wright’s dialogue heavy and rather intimate study of the Prime Minister in a very specific time of his life, when he was ushered into the role of England’s leader in the heat of German’s attack on Europe and in particular England’s potentially disastrous Dunkirk situation, Oldman disappears under brilliant prosthetics and make-up and truly becomes Churchill in a turn that shows the iconic figure as a man with a wickedly dark sense of humour, a stoic determination to do what he feels is best and most tellingly, a man that feels the pain and pressure to lead a country in its most bleak time of need.

Darkest Hour will not satisfy those seeking an expansive examination of Churchill’s upbringing or those seeking war time spectacle but for those looking to get an insight into Churchill’s mindset and to get a feel for a man that played such a big part in the greatest war we’ve ever seen, Darkest Hour will hold your attention throughout and leave you at times breathless from Oldman’s turn.

Narrowing his focus onto but a few weeks of Churchill’s reign and in particular three key speeches the Prime Minister made in the month of May of 1940, Wright’s film isn’t anything ground-breaking but thanks to Oldman and some key supports, Darkest Hour is one of the rare modern movies that thrives purely off its actors without the usual modern pizazz taking centre stage.

Surrounded by quality supports such as Kristin Scott Thomas as Churchill’s beloved wife Clemmie, Baby Driver standout Lily James as Churchill’s typewriting assistant Elizabeth Layton and Ben Mendelsohn as King George VI, with whom Oldman shares some delightfully awkward scenes with, Darkest Hour is truly an acting showpiece with some added well-established production design and bigger budget sensibilities, assuring that Wright’s film feels like more than just a jazzed-up BBC event.

At the end of the day though all else within Darkest Hour matters little in comparison to Oldman, very much the captain of this particular cinematic ship, Oldman is the key ingredient to this feature and the reason as to why Darkest Hour has found itself a key part of this year’s awards season.

Final Say –

While there’s nothing particularly special about Darkest Hour outside of a well-trimmed script and some fine acting supports, there’s something undeniably magical about Oldman’s portrayal of Churchill that will go down as one of the most impressive lead turns of the modern movie era and the quintessential embodiment of one of the most iconic political figures of all time.

3 ½ wrongly executed hand gestures out of 5

8 responses to “Film Review – Darkest Hour (2017)

  1. Good review. I haven’t done my review for this movie yet, but it was fairly good movie (something that’s similar to a lot of Oscar-type films). Like you said, the script was tight and all the acting was solid, especially Oldman as Churchill, but nothing truly spectacular.

  2. I enjoyed your review, Eddie. Thanks.
    Sometimes it’s difficult for me to watch a movie with a friend; I most often go alone. One of my majors in college was film/television production so I have a tendency to ooh and aah over things other people don’t even notice. I try to not annoy them with it.
    With “The Darkest Hour,” I sat in the theater with a friend who also appreciates set design, cinematography, etc. I was impressed with Oldman to the extent that, at times, I forgot I was watching an actor.
    The production design was memorable for me because of its consistent darkness, perhaps alluding to the Darkest Hour. Lighting quite often included the mere illumination by lamps in the scene. (Although I know other lighting must have been involved.) Some of the shots made me gasp, in particular an elevator shot which gave the impression that the car was suspended in darkness (there we go again) with the technique repeated later when Churchill was alone in a room making a phone call. I thought that was nicely done.
    It’s a movie I’d see again at a theater (alone this time) if it was still playing in my city. Unfortunately, it left town the same week I saw it.

    • Thanks for sharing your thoughts Paula, glad you enjoyed this film and in particular Oldman’s great turn as Churchill!
      I think there is often a real joy in getting to watch a film in the cinema alone as you can often take things in even more than when you can with a good group of friends.

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