Thanks to Universal Pictures we had the chance to see Joe Wright’s, Darkest Hour before its official cinematic release. This is our review of the movie, but as usual, no matter what we say, we still recommend you to go and see it at your local cinema because there is no better critic than yourself!
It’s been over 70 years since the conclusion of one of the bloodiest battles in the history of mankind, and yet filmmakers are still finding new, and innovative, ways to tell both the heroic and horrific stories of World War II. 2017 has been no exception, with the likes of Lone Scherfig’s charming Their Finest, and Christopher Nolan’s sublime Dunkirk tackling the subject. So it would be easy to think that the third film World War II might have little to offer but you would be seriously mistaken.
While many of its predecessors base their stories around the looming suspense of impending attacks on (not so) far flung seas and fields, Darkest Hour tells the story of a defiant, little, rotund alcoholic that just so happened to be, one of Britain’s greatest hero’s – Winston Churchill.
The story takes the viewer into the pompous, stuffy, cigar stained rooms of London where Britain’s politicians are scrambling to save some semblance of the Empire, in the build up to what many believe to be an impending invasion by Hitler and his forces. When the Prime Minister is forced to give up his position, Churchill is chosen to lead the crumbling Empire. Disliked by his peers (including the King) due to his professional and personal failings, including alcoholism and depression, the charismatic Churchill must bear the weight of the world on his shoulders as he wades through his emotional turmoil, to do what is right for the nation.
Throughout the movie, Wright shows reverence to the mood and tension prevalent in Britain at the time. By shrouding scenes in a gloomy veil that never recedes, tied to eerie shots of London streets showing people ‘getting on with it’, claustrophobia inducing shots of war rooms, tunnels and cramped working environments that, for the leaders of Britain at least, was their front line, Wright creates a palpable tension that builds steadily throughout the film. The exceptional use of close up cinematography, results in the audience constantly feeling on edge.
The few, and much needed, breaks in the tension come in the form of moments of genuine levity that are developed by the superb script writing of Anthony McCaten, and delivered brilliantly by the films leading man – Gary Oldman (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy).
Undoubtedly the star of the show is the virtually unrecognisable Oldman, who deftly adopts Churchill’s hunkering, mumbling and yet, charismatic persona, turning in a career defining performance. Throughout the movie, we get glimpses of the shell of the man that Churchill has become, following his professional failures in Gallipoli and personal demons – and the man he could have been. Yet his talent for inspiring speeches and defiant attitude led his peers and people to overlook his shortcomings and unite behind the notion of a victory long since thought impossible. Make no mistake, this is not just an Oscar worthy performance – it’s an Oscar winning performance.
At its core, Darkest Hour is an inspiring gem of a film. Yes, it may not the be guns blaring onslaught of Dunkirk, but the slow pace builds the same level of tension, if not more. And while sometimes it takes liberties with historical accuracy, epitomised by one scene where the clueless aristocrat decides to use public transport for the first time in order to gauge the public opinion in what is a cringe worthy scene, it manages for the most to depict the story of the Churchill not as the hero Britain wanted, but the one it deserved.
IN CINEMAS JANUARY 2018