Within days of becoming Prime Minister of Great Britain, Winston Churchill (Gary Oldman) must face one of his most turbulent and defining trials: exploring a negotiated peace treaty with Nazi Germany, or standing firm to fight for the ideals, liberty and freedom of a nation. As the unstoppable Nazi forces roll across Western Europe and the threat of invasion is imminent, and with an unprepared public, a skeptical King, and his own party plotting against him, Churchill must withstand his darkest hour, rally a nation, and attempt to change the course of world history.
Gary Oldman is in Oscar-worthy form in Joe Wright’s stunning account of Britain’s darkest days during World War II.
We’ve all read Churchill’s inspiring ‘We will fight them on the beaches’ speech, but it’s something else hearing it bellowed out by Oldman. Let alone his ‘don’t negotiate with a tiger when your head is in it’s mouth’ line too. Spine-tingling scenes.
Director Joe Wright (Anna Karenina) knows something about filming war - the epic tracking one-shot in Atonement is one of cinemas finest – and the visuals in closed rooms and open battlefields are equally impressive. Full credit to his regular production crew for such a detailed and gorgeous period recreation.
Four-time Oscar-nominated French cinematographer Bruno Delbonnel (Amelie) and Wright bring Churchill’s words to thrilling life - parliamentary debates are gripping, underground bunker scenes are kinetic, and there’s one beautiful shot where Churchill’s wife Clemmie (Kristen Scott Thomas) comforts him that just perfectly encapsulates everything.
And we can claim a bit of credit here too, with our own Anthony McCarten on screenwriting duties here. He was nominated for an Oscar for The Theory of Everything and brings a fresh insight to the life of Winston Churchill.
But it’s Oldman’s show and he’s the frontrunner come awards season for the role of a lifetime (as well as his amazing make-up team). He’s always been a favourite of mine, just bringing that extra class to roles from Commissioner Gordon to Sirius Black to Beethoven. His ability to inhabit all of Churchill’s fears, pains and hopes is breathtaking stuff.
It’s a cracker supporting cast too: Thomas steals all the scenes as she reigns in her cantankerous husband, as Churchill’s secretary Lily James (Baby Driver) helps humanise him, and Aussie Ben Mendelsohn continues his chameleon-like form as the stuttering King George VI.
There’ll be inevitable comparisons to Dunkirk as they cover the exact same period, but they are two entirely different movies (though a great double feature for sure).
A must see for Oldman’s performance of a lifetime, Darkest Hour is a spine-tingling history lesson from master director Joe Wright. Powerful stuff.
DVD Releases: 25th April 2018
Rating: PG - Contains mild themes and coarse languag
Duration: 125 minutes
Starring: Gary Oldman, Lily James, Kristin Scott Thomas
Director: Joe Wright (Atonement, Hanna)