At this point, “Darkest Hour” has an overall rating of 5.3. I do not understand this at all, but the film has not actually been released yet and has only been seen in film festivals. I assume the overall score will increase considerably–especially since the two reviews for it were quite positive.
Now I must point out that I am a retired history teacher and I consider Winston Churchill to be perhaps the greatest politician of the century. So, I clearly have a bias and predisposition towards liking the movie…especially if it’s done well. Is it a crowd pleaser? Maybe not, as the average movie-goer (especially teens) might not enjoy this or care a lick about the film.
The story covers only a portion of the month of May, 1940…just before the fall of France during WWII. Prime Minster Chamberlain is about to be tossed out of office, as his appeasement strategy with Hitler has turned out to be completely stupid. In his place, some hope for Churchill to be the next Prime Minister…though some forces are working to depose him as soon as he comes to power. At the same time, the war is going as badly as it possibly can. Can Churchill survive this? Well, of course…duh, it’s HISTORY!
The reasons to see this are two big ones….the film has achieved the look of 1940 beautifully and Gary Oldman provides an Oscar- winning performance in the lead. If he is not at least nominated for this top award, I will be completely shocked…and he really managed (along with ample prosthetics) to LOOK and SOUND like the great man. Great job all around…and a perfect film.
Historically fascinating, but most importantly filled with exhilarating energy, humour and passion throughout
Not only is this a riveting account of one of the most important moments of the Second World War, but it’s also an exhilarating drama that goes beyond being a simple biography by bringing humour, energy and passion to every moment. With a stunning central performance by Gary Oldman, confident and passionate directing from Joe Wright, and a brilliant screenplay from start to finish, Darkest Hour is a simply exceptional film.
When telling a story as well-known as that of Winston Churchill and the Second World War, being both exciting and historically accurate isn’t always easy, but that’s where the unique take on the historical drama of Darkest Hour comes in.
Yes, it does tell of the extreme intensity of the early days of the war, the political manoeuvring in Westminster as Churchill was appointed Prime Minister, and the very real and impending threat that the fall of Britain could very well mean the end of freedom-loving Western civilisation, which are all absolutely fascinating to watch unfold, but they’re all parts of history that you arguably already know very well.
That’s why the film’s decision to bring a brilliant sense of humour and a strong passion to proceedings is so effective. The importance of the events being portrayed on screen is never downplayed, and there are indeed some very intense and emotionally powerful moments, but there’s so much more to Darkest Hour than just history, something that made it such a refreshing watch compared to how most Oscar-bait biographies turn out.
Above all, what impressed me most about the film was the fact that it’s just so funny. It’s by no means a comedy, but this isn’t a pompous and dry historical drama, but one that takes glee in pointing out the eccentricities in its main character, eccentricities which are undoubtedly a part of why Churchill is so lauded and respected to this day.
While the film praises Churchill’s bulldog spirit in fighting the fight against the Nazis, it’s always keen to show him in a slightly brighter light, almost as if he was a man who stumbled into the most important job in history by coincidence. In that, there are so many genuinely hilarious scenes as Churchill’s quirky personality clashes with the more uptight politicians of Westminster, a part of the film that I felt not only made everything more entertaining, but helped to give the movie an incredibly refreshing energy, allowing me to see Churchill in a very relatable, personal light rather than just as a historical figure from a textbook.
As well as being downright hilarious at points, there’s a real passion behind the film’s depiction of the darkest hours of the war. With Churchill being forced over to opening peace talks with Hitler, the film does an incredible job at inspiring you to a point of fever pitch, fully backing Churchill’s bulldog spirit to fight and defend freedom to the very last moment, meaning that the internal conflict he suffers throughout the film is such a riveting focal point.
This is an undoubtedly patriotic film, and heaps a lot of praise onto Churchill’s gusto, but that doesn’t mean it’s overly jingoistic. There may be a case that Brits watching the film will feel more emotion from its incredible passion, but I still feel that most of that comes from how well the character of Churchill is developed throughout, from a bumbling, mumbling, lovable old man to a truly honest and principled leader.
Finally, we have to talk about Gary Oldman’s performance, which is amazing. For one, thanks of course in part to the make-up and costume teams, it’s pretty impossible to tell that you’re watching Gary Oldman in this movie. But not only does he look nothing like Oldman, and so much more like Churchill, but everything about Oldman’s performance, from the smallest details about Churchill to his fantastic passion and energy on screen, pulls you further and further into the moment, and creates an exceptionally convincing portrayal of the great man and the situation surrounding him, which I was blown away by.
Overall, I absolutely loved Darkest Hour. It’s an undoubtedly riveting historical drama about a crucial turning point in global history, but more than that, it’s full of incredible energy from start to finish, with amazing and still appropriate humour throughout combined with stunning patriotic passion, making for a genuinely exciting and properly entertaining film that does so much more than your typical Oscar-bait fare.
Riveting production despite its pat view of history
We go to the movies to be gripped by powerful narratives presented with good scripts and moving imagery. This film has all of it, most especially a riveting performance by Gary Oldman.
The subject matter will clearly divide audiences thanks to its pat view of history: UK as the righteous hero and everyone else as inept – Italians and French losers, Germans the evil fascists, US completely unmentioned, Canada the quiet prairie for monarchs to escape to — in the still-somewhat- mysterious Dunkirk incident where Hitler could easily have tightened the noose and pushed UK over the edge of what was evidently a crushing defeat, but somehow allowed them the leeway to escape by civilian boats. There’s next to no mention of the French army that stood its ground and valiantly sacrificed itself to win a couple of days for the Brits on the beach.
All that said, as a film, this is a gripping narrative with just the kind of insouciant wit you’d expect from Churchill. While movies such as “The Gathering Storm” with Albert Finney were more considered, Darkest Hour is the kind of production that wows awards juries and audiences. Worthy watch when it comes to a theater near you. I feel Nolan’s “Dunkirk” would be richer if you saw it *after* Darkest Hour.