Ah yes, the lavish movie that appears to be built around winning one actor their Oscar. There’s one every year. Usually a period piece. Darkest Hour fits that bill to a T.
Directed by Joe Wright, Gary Oldman plays Winston Churchill in a film that follows his first days as Prime Minister of England during WWII. I’d heard it described as a sorta unofficial companion piece to Dunkirk earlier this year, and it’s true. You see that same story told from the other side, though it’s not the sole focus of the film.
I’m not particularly fond of period pieces or war films, at least not generally speaking. They hafta have something really special, and for me this didn’t quite do that. Oldman is fantastic, and he deserves the inevitable Oscar nomination (my heart is elsewhere for the win, but we’ll discuss much later). However, his performance only took me so far in enjoying the film. My lack of history knowledge had me lost in some of the details, and as a result, the impact of specific scenes and speeches didn’t quite work for me.
It was interesting seeing Wright’s approach to this film. (Also interesting was his Q&A after my screening.) I love him for his beautifully stylish films. This was far more subtle and subdued. I don’t think I would have appreciated that with another director. He did sneak in a few nice flourishes that felt very him that I very much enjoyed.
I also really liked the supporting cast. Kristen Scott Thomas was a powerhouse as the Mrs. Churchill, and I would have liked to see more involvement from her. Then there was Ben Mendelsohn as King George VI (who we saw played by Colin Firth in The King’s Speech). The size of his role was right for this film, but I’d love to see it expanded in a further piece. Lily James was a surprise for me. I don’t typically care for her, but as our sort of audience surrogate (being introduced into the world as we are), I liked her. She had a charisma and grace about her that was quite fitting.
Anyways, the long as short is that this might not be a film for the casual movie goer. However, it is one for Oscar enthusiasts and history buffs. We see a lot of those this time of year.
Darkest Hour – \m/ \m/ \m/