“Darkest Hour” Film Review

Darkest Hour Gary Oldman

“Darkest Hour”

Dir; Joe Wright.  Starring; Gary Oldman, Lily James, Kristin Scott Thomas.  2017.  PG-13.  Color.  125 min.

Darkest Hour Movie Poster

Before Japan and America got involved, Hitler was clearly in control during WWII.  Countries in Europe were dropping like flies, and it appeared that Britain would be the next to fall.  The higher ups of the British Parliament were insisting on entering negotiations of surrender to a madman.  Winston Churchill was the only one who said “to hell with this”, igniting his country to fight back and help defeat Hitler.  “Darkest Hour” is the portrait of a brilliant man, complete with all his flaws and weaknesses.

Director Joe Wright focuses squarely on the rooms where powerful men decided how to shape a war instead of the act of war itself.  We begin with the current British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain (Ronald Pickup) being forced to step down from his post during the current threat of invasion.  A furious debate ensues, and Winston Churchill is eventually elected.  Like all politics, many in Parliament strongly oppose Churchill’s election.  He is swimming with sharks, but Churchill is ultimately focused on protecting his country and defeating Hitler.  King George VI (Ben Mendelsohn, fantastic as always) is struggling to figure out how to lead his nation.  An intimidating figure like Churchill scares him.  However, the King is not an idiot, and knows full well that Churchill is the man best suited to guide the British Empire during the greatest fight they have ever seen.

“Darkest Hour” presents Winston Churchill as a human being.  He is an angry alcoholic who constantly needs a cigar in his mouth to keep his mind clear.  His wife Clemmie (Kristin Scott Thomas) hates his antics, but after 20+ years she is invested in the brilliance of the man she loves.  His typist Elizabeth (a shyly confident Lily James) provides Churchill with insight in between his insults and glasses of whiskey.  Gary Oldman gives the best performance of the year as he does not just embody his character, he is Winston Churchill.

By no means is this a great film.  You will see a minimum of fifteen speeches about how important this war is to the point where the screenplay gets old, and that is just in the first hour.  And I thought Spielberg was obsessed with telling the audience what to believe!  The film pounds you in the head instead of simply telling its story.  The Cinematography by Bruno Delbonnel is also lacking.  There are some fantastic long takes, but in closed quarters like Parliament or Churchill’s house, Delbonnel insists on using forceful lighting to make the audience look at what he wants us to without being stylistic about it.  “Darkest Hour” insists on telling the audience how important it is instead of simply being important in its own right.

Fortunately for us, a fantastic cast has been put in place here, led by the magnificent Gary Oldman.  You will forget about this films missteps very quickly.  “Darkest Hour” is a thrilling look at a historic moment in history.  Winston Churchill is a legendary figure, and receives the legendary performance he deserves from Gary Oldman.

Suck Factor: out of 7 (7 means your movie really SUCKS!)

Written by Byrd

*The Suck Factor! – How it Works

I’ve flipped the switch on the standard rating system for film criticism. Instead of rating a movie with stars or letters representing how good a film is, I rank films from 0 to 7 to tell you how much a movie SUCKS! So if the film is a masterpiece, like “The Godfather” for example, then it gets a 0 on my scale, meaning the movie gives 0 SUCKS! If the movie is absolutely terrible, for instance every Michael Bay film, it scores a 7 so you know to avoid it at all costs.

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