The year is 1940, England, Parliament is in a chaotic uproar as the opposing Labor party demand the resignation of Neville Chamberlain declaring he is unprepared to lead a country into war. Hitler is leading his pursuit of Europe nearing closer to the channel, Mr Churchill, over to you.
If I hadn’t been lead to see the film knowing it was Gary Oldman taking centre stage I would not know who was playing Churchill. I’ve admired Oldman’s work since I studied Leon in depth in my College days, the way he embodies a character has blown me away since then and seeing Darkest Hour has clarified to me that Gary Oldman is one of the great actors of our time. With the Oscar buzz in full swing, I can see why Oldman is leading the way. He transforms himself into the large, babyish (reference to a scene in the film), over guzzling, 65 year old pompous man tremendously.
With Joe Wright as director, I was spoilt by their collaboration having studied Joe Wright also as an auteur study whilst at College. I was sat waiting for one of Wright’s beautifully executed long tracking shots however there wasn’t one to compare in length, to the harrowing 5 minute Dunkirk one take tracking shot scene we were treated to in Atonement. Not that I am complaining. There are beautiful establishing shots and handsome framing which are a treat for any cinema fanatic’s eye.
Darkest Hour joins this year’s Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk and Lone Scherfig’s Their Finest as the accidental third film focusing on the evacuation of Dunkirk. Darkest Hour focuses on the political decisions made amongst the smoke of metropolis London – a far cry from the bleak conditions of Dunkirk. With the weight of the world firmly sat on Winston Churchill’s shoulders I was under the impression that Churchill was fully supported by his cabinet however I was mistaken. Lead by the recently resigned ex PM Neville Chamberlain and Viscount Halifax (Ronald Pickup and Stephen Dellane), Anthony McCarten treats us to the truth of the war that was happening amongst the cabinet. Churchill’s decisions are in constant battle with the pair who take on the role perfectly as the enemy within the war council. Keen to prepare a peace negotiation with Mussolini and Hitler, their behaviour sees Churchill rely heavily on the support of his wife Clementine (Kristin Scott Thomas) and Antony Eden (Samuel West), visually showing strain and exhaustion and with the Wehrmacht closing in, Churchill is suffocated by how he is best to lead his country and the suits of government.
We are treated to another Churchill led biopic which demonstrates the chaos of stepping up during a time of crisis. Oldman gives us a true performance showing many sides of Churchill – passionate, kind, witty and victorious.