Gary Oldman disappears into one of the most iconic names in recent history. Darkest Hour is the story of Winston Churchill as the newly appointed Prime Minister. Not only was Churchill unpopular when appointed but he was elected in the early days of World War II.
Hitler has his hands around the entirety of Europe. Britain takes beating after beating as their neighbors fall. Churchill (Gary Oldman) was chosen to make the hard decisions that need making. The cowardly politicians around him want to unburden themselves. The decisions that need making will literally change the course of the world.
Learning about Churchill in history or through other movies don’t get into the man. They focus on his actions and how they impact the war. Our introduction to Churchill is his new secretary. Elizabeth Layton (Lily James), takes abuse and almost loses her job on her first morning of work. Churchill is a stubborn old man, difficult to deal with, but not all bad when you learn his bark is worse than his bite. The one person who can get any sort of control over Churchill is his wife, Clemmie (Kristin Scott Thomas).
The darkness of the shoot is intentional but makes it for an irritating watch. The bomb shelter is sensibly dark but this also adds to a bland feeling of the film. Darkest Hour is not supposed to be light by any means. The darkness is a contrast to the oscar-bait friendly comedy written for the AARP crowd to get behind.
The comedy had no place in the film. Breaking of tension is prevalent in most movies, it makes it easier for audiences to digest. If Joe Wright wanted to make a war set movie so dark it’s very title is Darkest Hour, why should the tension be broken? The world was teetering on the edge. This man who takes the hate of the nation he loves while making tough decisions is cracking wise with his twenty something typist? It felt false. The comedy was well written for the script so at least there’s that.
The real draw to the movie, as with most movies starring Gary Oldman, is the actor himself. Oldman is a commanding actor who can do big, small, flamboyant, or serious. He is a foundation to build a movie around and even when he is physically transformed into a historical figure his charm wins the audience. Oldman is nearly unrecognizable as Churchill which makes the movie all the more engaging. Oldman has already won multiple awards at the time of this writing and more, well deserved, are sure to follow.
Darkest Hour is worth your time. Put the dark shoot and the out of place comedy aside and enjoy a piece of well written cinema and a piece of real history. This is also the perfect movie for a double feature with 2017’s Dunkirk. It’s a shame the studio missed out on the marketing for following Nolan’s own war time masterpiece.