Words do prevail in Darkest Hour, a superb piece of cinema that focuses on one of the most defining moments of the 20th Century and the man who would lead the allies to victory with one incredible performance from Gary Oldman.
Winston Churchill (Gary Oldman) faces a crucial moment against Adolf Hitler’s army during the Dunkirk invasion at the beginning of the Second World War, and finds himself questioning everything he has ever believed in.
In watching Darkest Hour it’s very clear that this is Gary Oldman’s film. The talented British thespian is often regarded as one of modern day cinema’s most talented performers and here he gets a space to really let his talents soar. Through an incredible array of prosthetics Oldman steps into the very skin and spirit of the legendary British bulldog of English politics who is thrust into the spotlight and must conquer his many mental faults, along with the ever-changing political manoeuvres of his adversaries within Parliament to become the man his people need.
Oldman’s mannerism’s as the legendary Churchill are spot on and he is never without a cigar in hand or a glass of scotch and the revered politicians volatile mood-swings and deep bouts of depression are certainly on display. One minute he can be reclined in laughter and then very next instance he’ll be screaming his head off like some toddler throwing a tantrum. All of which is ultimately in keeping with Churchill’s very physical character, which was some quite different from the stayed and often grey political leaders that Britain has had up until that time.
n watching Oldman you see a man who is trying to get over the failures that have plagued him his whole life and have marked him as a ‘has been’ and a failure. Darkest Hour is ultimately the story of man’s search for belief in himself and of the power that it gives him to rise to the occasion in the moment that his people need him the most. It’s a magnificent feat and you sense that this performance has come as a result of Oldman’s long and miraculous career. This is the end of result of all of the actors fabled performances and it is nothing short of brilliant.
I must also give considerable credit to Oldman’s co-star Kristen Scott Thomas as Churchill’s strong-willed wife Clementine. While her husband might be the bulldog, it’s she who is his wrangler and who is there for him in his most naked, and open moments. When he is at a loss with what to do next it’s Clemmie who consoles him and who is essentially the guiding light that leads him to his greatest moment.
Director Joe Wright really goes to work with Darkest Hour. Noted for his work on such stunning films as Pride and Prejudice and Atonement, Wright captures his film with a very grey toned use of cinematography that makes the film seem at times like it was shot in black and white. It’s a great stylistic choice and really makes one feel that you’re in the time period.
Darkest Hour is an incredibly moving piece of cinema and captures the very essence of one man’s and one nation’s finest hour. When all hope was lost one man had the courage to do what was to right, and it was this act that ultimately leads his nation to victory. They don’t get much better than Darkest Hour.
Image: Universal Pictures