Review: Darkest Hour

Gary Oldman cements why he’s one of the U.K.’s finest exports with his turn as Winston Churchill. It’s a towering performance that should rightly see him take all the major acting gongs of the year in a rousing, if a little preachy, entertainment!

The second of the Winston Churchill biopics in the last 12 years befalls us in the form of Joe Wright’s Darkest Hour, it also marks the third to tackle the topic of the Dunkirk extraction in World War II. Oldman inhabits the role of Winston Churchill, in heavy (and soon to be Oscar winning) make-up, the recently appointed British Prime Minister tasked with strategising a plan to save allied forces trapped on the French beach from the descending Nazi war machine. Having to navigate his way through a political minefield in the process, can Churchill persuade his allies and detractors in a course of action that will change the course of the war?

With such a robust and dialogue heavy screenplay from Anthony McCarten (The Theory of Everything), Wright makes the deft move in letting his bevy of dynamic actors provide the action. When you are dealing a line up consisting of the aforementioned Oldman, a flawless Kristen Scott Thomas, Stephen Dillane, Lily James, and our very own Ben Mendelsohn, you only need to let the cameras roll to make the screen come alive and that certainly happens here.

Ne’er a dull moment hits the screen during Darkest Hour‘s 125 runtime, as Oldman gives it his all as the cantankerous, stressed, passionate, obstinate, and driven historical figure. It makes up for some narrative shortfalls, namely in the balancing of history (and some questionable attempts at humour which don’t work) and a tendency to slip into preachiness territory, yet Oldman rises above and takes what many would consider Churchill’s most brazen character flaws and moulds them into a fully realised on screen character. You like him, you hate him, you cheer for him.

Much also needs to be said Bruno Delbonnel’s (A Very Long Engagement, Amelie) stunning cinematography. Given how much of this film is in rooms and chambers, the film looks sumptuous and the framing complements the action in the dialogue. Darkest Hour may not be littered with big budget action sequences, but the characters fiery exchanges more than make up for it when framed as solidly as they are here.

Darkest Hour is a rousing entertainment beautifully performed by all the players involved with a towering central turn from Gary Oldman. This will be his SAG and Oscar winning role for this awards season and, whilst the script is a little uneven, the performances on show more than make up for it.