Darkest Hour: Film Review

Perhaps the easiest way to possibly win an Oscar is to portray a historical figure that makes that actor invisible by comparison. Many have already played their part of Prime Minister Winston Churchill in years past. We’ve already seen John Lithgow in what he did with The Crown, which won him an Emmy for his performance, and everybody loved him. Now, it’s time for Gary Oldman to achieve the biggest honor with Darkest Hour.

During the early days of World War II, Winston Churchill (Gary Oldman) chronicles what happens when he’s appointed Prime Minister and the United Kingdom being threatened by a possible Nazi invasion while 300,000 British soldiers were stuck in Dunkirk.

Gary Oldman in Darkest Hour (2017)

There were four reasons Darkest Hour looked promising: 1) Gary Oldman as Churchill, 2) Joe Wright (Pride & Prejudice, Atonement) is directing it, 3) It’s written by Anthony McCarten (The Theory of Everything), and 4) It’s coming out at the most appropriate time of historical dramas. With all of those combined, it’s inevitable to not think Darkest Hour would be good. And while I can’t say it’s one of the best movies of the year, in my opinion, there’s more important to be searched for in this biopic.

To start off the easiest way, Oldman was great as Churchill. His resemblance to his counterpart is very unrecognizable the entire time and disappeared in his performance. There was a sense of humor shown through him, which was unexpected. His affections when he speaks isn’t much different under the fantastic makeup prosthetics, but you can easily tell it’s Oldman. One of the best lines his gives off was intimidating when he said, “You can not reason with a tiger when your head is in its mouth!” He’s very much on par’ with Daniel Day-Lewis’ performance in Lincoln. Maybe this will finally be the year he finally wins that covenant Oscar. How sad is it that he only got nominated once in his career?

Wright has always been the director known for directing period pieces, and it’s no surprise he accomplished the legacy of this great man right. Thankfully, this is a mulligan after his dreadful take on Pan. Combined that with the gorgeous cinematography from Bruno Delbonnel, it captures the feel of the decade perfectly. McCarten’s screenplay also takes the opportunity to make the effort of showing some humanity into Churchill. Just from when he talks with his supportive wife (Kristin Scott Thomas) or his secretary (Lily James), that provides depth. Just like Lincoln, it doesn’t explore his entire life, but an important part of history that changed the world during the month of May. There was a scene that brought my attention to where he’s on a train and it didn’t feel cheesy, but important to himself. They also mentioned the battle of Dunkirk in the story considering Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk came out this past year, and it’s still great.

Gary Oldman and Kristin Scott Thomas in Darkest Hour (2017)

Because this focus on the history of what was happening, some will lose attention to details, including myself. This is a dialogue-heavy drama that’s what’s to be expected. And while some scenes stood out from the rest, the others didn’t intrigue me. Honestly, it felt long as I was trying to get invested with the power and struggles put upon Churchill being thrown in the middle. It’s just that the overall story should’ve really grabbed me, and it didn’t quite reach that point.

By the end, Darkest Hour is ultimately made for history buffs who will be attached to very quickly on. This felt like it’s going to be this year’s The Imitation Game, where I didn’t love it and others will, but I only found it to be alright. But its strength in the performances, especially from Oldman, Wright’s direction, and the screenplay are engaging to follow through. Though if Oldman isn’t a lock at this point, the makeup should definitely win the fact that it wasn’t distracting and looked very real.

Darkest Hour just wasn’t as enthralling, but it’s all saved by Gary Oldman’s powerful performance as Churchill to keep being invested.

Grade: B-

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