DARKEST HOUR, directed by Joe Wright, is a well-crafted British period war movie. It’s based on a true story about Britain’s most illustrious Prime Minister, Sir Winston Churchill, set on the cusp of World War II, struggling to do the right thing in the face of incredible odds and opposition to his rule.
It is a mesmerizing film due in part to Gary Oldman’s portrayal of Churchill, a complex man, and one of the 20th century’s most heroic leaders who stood up to the tyranny of Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany. Oldman is unrecognizable fully assuming the appearance, demeanor and gravitas of this British statesman. His performance is riveting and holds your attention throughout the film. You forget you are watching an actor play a role. Oldman not only masters Churchill’s appearance and mannerisms but speech and personality. Acclaimed international actress Kristin Scott Thomas plays his devoted wife, Clementine Churchill, and Lily James, his devoted secretary, Miss Layton.
The film opens with archival black and white footage of Nazi Germany’s military might including images of its disciplined army, plethora of armaments, and its leader, Adolf Hitler. It cuts to an interior shot of the House of Commons and the crisis facing the ruling conservatives led by Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain. Photographic and moving images of Adolf Hitler and sound clips of his voice run throughout the film highlighting the menace Nazi Germany posed to Britain’s sovereignty.
Some of the most powerful images in the film are the Nazi German bombs falling on British troops stationed in Calais, France, the armada of sailing boats sailing to Dunkirk, France to rescue British troops set against a backdrop of the white cliffs of Dover, Churchill’s radio address to the British nation, and the throwing of white linen handkerchiefs in the air by parliamentarians in the House of Commons to demonstrate their support for Churchill and his plan to wage war and to never surrender. One of many moving scenes in the film is Churchill’s ride on London’s underground subway and his engagement and consultation with ordinary British citizens about his intentions to wage battle in spite of his party’s intention to sue for peace. Wright creates an intimate and accessible portrait of the man. You feel the weight and strain the position placed on his mental and physical being when feeling the pressures of his position, he is unable to express his thoughts in a coherent flow for dictation to his secretary, Miss Layton.
DARKEST HOUR is a film worth seeing not only for Oldman’s Oscar worthy performance but because it bears witness to an incredible world leader of the 20th century who fought against evil and tyranny. Wright has delivered a remarkable film about a remarkable individual who for love of country and public service stepped up to the plate to guide, inspire, motivate and lead his nation and people to victory. Do see it for you won’t be disappointed. And if you are feeling inspired, you may want to pay homage to Sir Winston Churchill by visiting his monument on permanent display in Toronto’s Nathan Phillips Square.
Universal Pictures releases Darkest Hour in Toronto on Friday, Dec 8, 2017