“The Darkest Hour”, directed by Joe Wright, centers on one of Britian’s, if not the world’s, greatest leaders and orators, Winston Churchill. The film begins with a new receptionist come to assist Churchill with his day-to-day work. She is recited the “rules” for working with Churchill, his particulars of how correspondence is to be written, how his daily schedule is to be ran. In the midst of cigar smoke and tinkling decanters, she is met face-to-face with Churchill and we, the audience, are given our first glance at Gary Oldman.
For those of you who may have worried Oldman’s portrayal would be somehow “off”, you can lay your troubles to rest. His overall appearance is remarkable, including makeup, hair, and wardrobe. I didn’t see Oldman acting as Churchill. I saw Churchill, as if he walked right out of the past into the present. But then he speaks. The particular drawl, the indescribable quality of his voice that is legendary, hits your ears, as if you are listening to one of Churchill’s old radio broadcasts. Oldman exudes Churchill.
The movie soon dives into Churchill’s appointment by King George VI(played by Ben Mendelsohn of “Rogue One”) as Prime Minister. From there, history is splashed across the screen with vivid realism in each reel. We see the inner workings of Churchill’s Cabinet, a group of people hand-picked by Winston, including some of his strongest antagonists, most particularly Lord Halifax (played by Stephen Dillane of “Game of Thrones”). You see Churchill’s struggle with the hard truths of war and how to best serve the British people. You see him elicit hope in the face of hopelessness, bolster courage in the face of possible defeat, and, most importantly, rekindle the spark needed to ignite the troops. Gary Oldman humanizes a political figure beloved by many; he gives us a glimpse of Churchill’s values, makes us realize his fears, and makes us admire his innate ability to bond with the British people. We laugh with him, we worry with him, we cry with him. Gary Oldman’s performance is what you want in a movie. To experience a journey, to witness a character arc, to live someone else’s life, if only for 2 hours in a darkened theater.
Overall, the movie is phenomenal. Script, cinematography, and acting. Gary Oldman’s performance is deserving of his SAG and Golden Globe noms. I predict he will be a strong Oscar contender as well.
My rating: 5 reels out of 5.