Time Out says
The year’s most shocking transformation arrives in the form of Gary Oldman’s Winston Churchill, a creation for the ages
Sure, Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk blew us away with its immersiveness. But if you prefer your WWII movies to have a little dialogue, some shapeliness and (is it too much to ask?) a bit of powerhouse acting, director Joe Wright’s tense profile of the rising prime minister Winston Churchill is the war film to beat. Wright, it’s worth remembering, has been on those gory French beaches before with 2007’s Atonement, capturing the whole of the British evacuation and its surrounding chaos in a legendary five-minute tracking shot. As if pulling a been-there-Dunkirk-that, he now shifts to the tense strategy sessions, bunker hand-wringing and political gamesmanship that fed into England’s finest hour. Darkest Hour is a film of verbal ammunition, and its calibre is high.
At first you won’t believe your eyes, seeing Gary Oldman – still, in some perverse way, the alive presence from Sid and Nancy – buried under what must be pounds of prosthetic facial architecture. (The radical make-up work is by artist Kazuhiro Tsuji.) But your mind quickly gets you where you need to be, as we watch Oldman’s Churchill roughing up our expectations: crouching on his bedroom floor to capture a wayward cat, downing a breakfast of Scotch and cigars and mixing it up with his cowed, dutiful secretary Elizabeth (Lily James). The performance is a marvel, not merely leaping over what could have been a stunt, but deepening into a soulful portrayal of wartime leadership, tinged with ego, doubt and the demands of a terrible moment.
Churchill’s showdown with Parliament is well-trod ground but Darkest Hour manages to make it fresh, particularly in one civilisation-defining phone conversation the prime minister has with the disembodied voice of President Franklin Roosevelt, with Oldman sweating out the request for military aid. Scenes between Churchill and an icy King George (Ben Mendelsohn, superb, even better than Colin Firth’s version in The King’s Speech) are the film’s heart, as royalty bends to support the man in the hot seat. There is one misstep: a fictionalised crowd-pleasing sequence set in the London Underground, in which Churchill appeals to the advice of everyday citizens – everyone’s too well spoken. But the movie survives it, leaving you with a dizzyingly emotional sense of history in the making. Where are today’s Churchills? Darkest Hour calls out to greatness; hopefully that call will be heard.
Follow Joshua Rothkopf on Twitter: @joshrothkopf
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Users say (1)
Gary Oldman gives a towering powerhouse performance with all the political behind the doors maneuvering. Where DUNKIRK was the experience of battle and survival THE DARKEST HOUR are the politics and strategy of politicians and military leaders in rescuing the soldiers of Dunkirk and declaration of war.
I was into most of this movie until Churchill caught the subway train for the every-mans reactions and opinions. That unfortunate scene drastically took me out of the picture and I couldn't get back into the movie. It was just plain right phoney and destroyed the nature of the film. Having a black man and his white wife in the train during that scene is nothing more then political correctness at a time where that black man would have been the target of racism.
The only reason to watch this is a master-class of acting from Gary Oldman. I thought that Oldman should have been given the Oscar when he was nominated for TINKER, TAILOR SOLDIER SPY.