Review: Darkest Hour (2017)

Darkest Hour (2017)

Directed by: Joe Wright | 125 minutes | biography, drama | Actors: Gary Oldman, Kristin Scott Thomas, Ben Mendelsohn, Lily James, Ronald Pickup, Stephen Dillane, Nicholas Jones, Samuel West, David Schofield, Richard Lumsden, Malcolm Storry

When the ‘100 Greatest Britons of All Time’ were chosen in 2002, his name topped the list: Winston Churchill. And fifteen years later, the eccentric and outspoken British statesman is still ‘hot’. In 2017 he was not once but twice the subject of a biographical film about his life (and a year earlier there was the TV movie ‘Churchill’s Secret’ with Michael Gambon in the title role). In Jonathan Teplitzky’s ‘Churchill’, Brian Cox takes on the role of the former Prime Minister and sees him moving towards D-Day, June 6, 1944, which he fears will be a disaster. Joe Wright follows Churchill in his film ‘Darkest Hour’ in the first few weeks of his first premiership (he would be nominated for a second time in the 1950s), in May 1940; the month in which Hitler invades Western Europe and the Second World War is undeniable for the British. In this film, all-rounder Gary Oldman stars as Churchill, the man who ‘mobilized the English language and sent it into the battlefield’. Oldman has a completely different stature from the illustrious statesman and therefore spent more than two hundred hours in the make-up chair for a radical transformation; his body was made thicker with prostheses weighing half his own weight. Oldman is known as a method actor, who takes his work extremely seriously and is completely absorbed in his roles. His wife revealed in an interview that she “went to bed with Winston Churchill and woke up with Gary Oldman” during the shooting.

‘Darkest Hour’ actually mirrors Christopher Nolan’s ‘Dunkirk’ (2017)’; whereas that film shows the events of May 1940 from the perspective of the soldiers on the beach at Dunkirk, in his film Joe Wright takes us across the Channel, where the politicians in Westminster have to decide the lives of those same soldiers. Even before the Germans occupy Belgium and the Netherlands, the opposition in the British Parliament is demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain (Ronald Pickup, in the role that John Hurts should have been the last) because he does not act strongly enough against the threat of the Germans. nazis. Although the preference for his successor is actually Lord Halifax (Stephen Dillane), the Secretary of State, the obstinate and headstrong Winston Churchill (Gary Oldman) is ultimately selected for the position, especially because as a former Labor politician he relies on the support of the opposition. King George VI (Ben Mendelsohn) is not thrilled, but invites Churchill to speak about the cabinet formation. Churchill’s reputation, after his catastrophic blunder during the Gallipoli Campaign in World War I, has been rather damaged and he has few political friends. In his first speech as Prime Minister, he uses strong language: blood, sweat and tears must be shed and peace negotiations are out of the question. Chamberlain and Halifax watch with sadness how Churchill continues to deny that ally France is in danger of losing the battle against the Germans and insist on negotiations with Hitler, via the Italians. While some 300,000 British soldiers are cornered on the mainland, the newfangled and mistrusted Churchill must devise a plan to rescue them and convince his war cabinet that his strategy is the only right one.

A political story like this is, on paper, heavy and heavy, which will not appeal to everyone equally. ‘Darkest Hour’ does it all with so much flair and conviction that you are completely sucked into it. Joe Wright is known for his immersive and stylish way of filming. A visual highlight in his relatively young career is probably the spectacular, five minutes and five seconds long tracking shot of the evacuation at Dunkirk (!) in the romantic war drama ‘Atonement’ (2007), the film that forced his big breakthrough. “I just love to show off,” the British filmmaker joked. Here too Wright’s distinctive and artistic way of filming is extensively displayed, but here he mainly shows off his fantastic protagonist. Winston Churchill – with his hats, his perpetual cigar, his hefty build, lisping manner and sometimes curious view of things – was so ‘larger than life’ that he could easily be reduced to a kind of caricature. A lesser actor would no doubt have fallen into that trap, but Oldman reduces him to human proportions. Sure, he brings out all the signature mannerisms—and to perfection—but he’s perhaps even stronger in the scenes where he shows his vulnerable, desperate side. Oldman gets backlash from top actors – did we mention Kristin Scott Thomas is playing Churchill’s wife Clemmie? – but whoever he faces, everyone is stark at Oldman. He fascinates and hypnotizes and brings Britain’s most illustrious statesman back to life. You would almost forget that the screenplay by Anthony McCarthen (‘The Theory of Everything’, 2014), the cinematography by Bruno Delbonnel (‘Amelie’, 2001) and the score by Dario Marianelli (Wright’s permanent composer) are of a particularly high quality. be level.

Gary Oldman has been considered one of the best actors to never win an Oscar for years; in fact, the highly versatile Brit who has been acting at a very high level for many years has only been nominated once, in 2012 for ‘Tinker Tailer Soldier Spy’. It must be very strange if Oldman now wants to grab the coveted golden jewel again. In any case, he already has the Golden Globe in his pocket, and as far as we are concerned, there will be many more prizes, because Oldman puts down an exceptionally high level performance here. Although ‘Darkest Hour’ is really much more than just a showcase for Oldman, and actually everyone involved shows their best side, he does leave his mark on the end result.

Comments are closed.