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‘Darkest Hour’ (review by Benn Robbins)

Produced by Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, James Biddle,
Katherine Keating, Anthony McCarten,
Lisa Bruce,
Douglas Urbanski, Lucas Webb
Written by Anthony McCarten
Directed by Joe Wright
Starring Gary Oldman, Kristin Scott Thomas,
Stephen Dillane, Ben Mendelsohn,
Ronald Pickup,
Lily James, Samuel West

 

Before I begin, I would like to just say, “Can we just give the Best Actor Oscar to Gary Oldman and be done with it?”.

Now that that is out of the way, Darkest Hour is the riveting film about the first month of Winston Churchill’s tenure as the Prime Minister of Britain during the March of Hitler across Europe.

Set during the first month of his appointment, May 1940, Darkest Hour shows the struggles and the triumphs of those first 31 days he became the resident of 10 Downing St.

He struggles with a split and unsupportive Parliament while not having the complete confidence of the King.

It is firmly on Churchill’s shoulders whether to fight the Nazi war machine or kowtow to his party and begin the process of negotiating a peace treaty with Hitler possibly costing him and his nation the freedom they cherish.

Brilliantly directed by Joe Wright, Who’s previous films, Atonement (2007), Hanna (2011), and Pan (2015) showed us a very adept filmmaker who’s skill at storytelling is matched by his visual style. He has made a film that is not only thrilling, but the most exciting film about old men talking since 2011’s Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy.

More kudos to Mr. Wright, still, because I know how this story ends and yet, I was still gripped in its clutches.

Wright’s camera never wavers from showing you the dank, smoky bleakness of WWII era Britain. Grey and desaturated, the visuals are set to allow the performances shine. Oldman’s Churchill is sublime. Lost into the character under amazing prosthetics, Gary Oldman, who is never not 1000% amazing in whatever role he plays.  Whether or not the film is good or bad, Oldman is always phenomenal. He allows Churchill to be human and flawed. He also shows us what made him a force to be reckoned with as well. In Darkest Hour he gives one of the performances of his career. I am serious when I said they should just hand him the Best Actor award right now.

Not just Oldman, the supporting cast are at the top of their form here as well. Lilly James (Baby Driver) as Winston’s personal secretary, Elizabeth Layton; Kristen Scott Thomas (The English Patient) as Churchill’s loving though understandably frustrated wife, Clementine; and Ben Mendelsohn (Rogue One: A Star Wars Story) brilliantly portraying King George VI lead a veritable who’s who of excellent British character actors bringing the tension and the fear and ultimate triumph to life.

In the race to the Academy Awards, it is that time of year, after all, Darkest Hour should stand tall amongst the crowd as it is an entertaining watch with some of the best performances I have seen this year.

 

 

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