Starring: Gary Oldman, Lily James, Kristin Scott Thomas
Director: Joe Wright
Running Time: 125 mins
Darkest Hour is a British about the events surrounding the appointment of Winston Churchill as Prime Minister, and with the impending fall of Europe to the Nazis, he must decide whether to enter into peace negotiations with Hitler, or fight on against incredible odds to save the United Kingdom, and initiate the counterattack against the Nazi menace.
Not only is this a riveting account of one of the most important moments of the Second World War, but it’s also an exhilarating drama that goes beyond being a simple biography by bringing humour, energy and passion to every moment. With a stunning central performance by Gary Oldman, confident and passionate directing from Joe Wright, and a brilliant screenplay from start to finish, Darkest Hour is a simply exceptional film.
When telling a story as well-known as that of Winston Churchill and the Second World War, being both exciting and historically accurate isn’t always easy, but that’s where the unique take on the historical drama of Darkest Hour comes in.
Yes, it does tell of the extreme intensity of the early days of the war, the political manoeuvring in Westminster as Churchill was appointed Prime Minister, and the very real and impending threat that the fall of Britain could very well mean the end of freedom-loving Western civilisation, which are all absolutely fascinating to watch unfold, but they’re all parts of history that you arguably already know very well.
That’s why the film’s decision to bring a brilliant sense of humour and a strong passion to proceedings is so effective. The importance of the events being portrayed on screen is never downplayed, and there are indeed some very intense and emotionally powerful moments, but there’s so much more to Darkest Hour than just history, something that made it such a refreshing watch compared to how most Oscar-bait biographies turn out.
Above all, what impressed me most about the film was the fact that it’s just so funny. It’s by no means a comedy, but this isn’t a pompous and dry historical drama, but one that takes glee in pointing out the eccentricities in its main character, eccentricities which are undoubtedly a part of why Churchill is so lauded and respected to this day.
While the film praises Churchill’s bulldog spirit in fighting the fight against the Nazis, it’s always keen to show him in a slightly brighter light, almost as if he was a man who stumbled into the most important job in history by coincidence. In that, there are so many genuinely hilarious scenes as Churchill’s quirky personality clashes with the more uptight politicians of Westminster, a part of the film that I felt not only made everything more entertaining, but helped to give the movie an incredibly refreshing energy, allowing me to see Churchill in a very relatable, personal light rather than just as a historical figure from a textbook.
As well as being downright hilarious at points, there’s a real passion behind the film’s depiction of the darkest hours of the war. With Churchill being forced over to opening peace talks with Hitler, the film does an incredible job at inspiring you to a point of fever pitch, fully backing Churchill’s bulldog spirit to fight and defend freedom to the very last moment, meaning that the internal conflict he suffers throughout the film is such a riveting focal point.
This is an undoubtedly patriotic film, and heaps a lot of praise onto Churchill’s gusto, but that doesn’t mean it’s overly jingoistic. There may be a case that Brits watching the film will feel more emotion from its incredible passion, but I still feel that most of that comes from how well the character of Churchill is developed throughout, from a bumbling, mumbling, lovable old man to a truly honest and principled leader.
Finally, we have to talk about Gary Oldman’s performance, which is amazing. For one, thanks of course in part to the make-up and costume teams, it’s pretty impossible to tell that you’re watching Gary Oldman in this movie. But not only does he look nothing like Oldman, and so much more like Churchill, but everything about Oldman’s performance, from the smallest details about Churchill to his fantastic passion and energy on screen, pulls you further and further into the moment, and creates an exceptionally convincing portrayal of the great man and the situation surrounding him, which I was blown away by.
Overall, I absolutely loved Darkest Hour. It’s an undoubtedly riveting historical drama about a crucial turning point in global history, but more than that, it’s full of incredible energy from start to finish, with amazing and still appropriate humour throughout combined with stunning patriotic passion, making for a genuinely exciting and properly entertaining film that does so much more than your typical Oscar-bait fare, and that’s why I’m giving it an 8.8.