Director: Joe Wright
Darkest hour focuses on the period starting in 1940, when Neville Chamberlain (Ronald Pickup) is forced to step aside as British Prime Minister and Winston Churchill (Gary Oldman) is the only choice to step up to the role after a close rival Viscount Halifax (Stephen Dillane) declines the offer. Facing the imminent threat of invasion from Hitler’s forces marching across Western Europe, Churchill has to navigate a course to survival against a King who has little faith in him and plotting within his own party after making some unpopular policies and decisions.
Of course, all the talk is of Gary Oldman and a role most would probably never have imagined him playing. He’s a good guy for a start, often Oldman has been cast as the sinister bad guy but here he gets to play the other side and he revels in the role. At first you see the very grumpy and stern man but as the film progresses you see a more human side to the man when his relationship with his wife and secretary are explored a little more closely. This is where Kristin Scott Thomas and Lily James come in, respectively. They provide an excellent foil to Oldman’s portrayal as Churchill. Thomas shows a stunning loyalty as his long-suffering wife and although I’m not sure about James overall, her journey from being intimidated by her new superior to trusted confidant is interesting to follow. Gary Oldman’s performance is rightly winning him the accolades coming his way but it’s worth noting he has an excellent support network around him. As well as the main cast there’s fantastic support from the likes of Stephen Dillane, Ben Mendelsohn as King George and Joe Armstrong.
Darkest Hour is an excellent film. Anyone expecting this to be about how the war leading to victory then you might be disappointed. That said, these events do pave the way for how victory was actually achieved. The events in this film are told in great detail about how Churchill managed to win round a doubting King and silence his critics, if this hadn’t happened then there would have been no victory. I can’t comment as to how accurate these events are as history was never my strong point but in terms of story telling based on fact this is an excellent example of how to do it correctly. Having already illustrated how well a finely chosen cast make the film well-played is matched evenly by some very straight forward direction from Joe Wright. I really got the feeling that he just allowed the film to flow to the pace of the cast, therefore allowing them to dictate (pardon the pun) how well the film came across. Given the title, it was in some parts much lighter than I expected with some very amusing little quips and moments that showed a British spirit that, these days, is sadly lacking. As historical dramas go, and the focus more on the politics than the war itself, Darkest Hour is a fine film.
The Verdict: 4/5 Stars – We will fight them in the cinema