In the face of World War II, where over seventy million people lost their lives, Darkest Hour managed to be an enjoyable film to sit down and watch. The future of Western Europe sat directly on the lap of the newly selected British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, who takes on a battle of self-doubt when he must choose whether to reach a deal with Adolf Hitler, or fight him in war as a heavy underdog. The Prime Minister chooses the latter because “You cannot reason with a Tiger when your head is in his mouth.” Get your snacks ready before you watch the Darkest Hour so that you can indulge while you engage in an amusing film filled with inspiration and wisdom.
Gary Oldman is a true chameleon, barely recognizable as Winston Churchill; a grumpy man with a babyface and a schoolboy grin, constantly drinking whisky and smoking cigars who was simply born in a bad mood. Gary Oldman’s performance is akin to a grand orchestra and his master conductor is Joe Wright (Atonement), the director of the film. Gary Oldman gives a phenomenal performance embodying a man who was not only one of history’s most inspirational leaders, but, a figure who spent decades in politics, an artist who painted hundreds of canvasses, and an author who wrote dozens of books. Prime Minister Winston Churchill had a mind of ingenuity in navigating World War II at the age of sixty-five. The only other leader he’s arguably comparable to is the sixteenth President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln.
To think that Gary Oldman has gone from playing the role of Drexl Spivey, the dreadlock pimp who talked like he was a black man in Tony Scott’s True Romance, to genuinely performing as Winston Churchill, is a true testament to his wide range as a seasoned thespian who is master at locating the energy, pace and rhythm of his characters. Most notably in Darkest Hour, where we see the Prime Minister address the nation on the radio, for the first time, at precisely 9PM, shouting with demand to Viscount Halifax (Stephen Dillane, Spy Game) for a moment of peace as he makes sudden changes to his written speech, just seconds before the clock ticks to a beaming light permeating the entire room in an alarming red. We jump into the skin of Churchill in this scene where he addresses England and we truly feel that we, in the audience are with millions of British citizens.
Darkest Hour was shot by French Cinematographer Bruno Delbonnel (Amelie), who captured dark shadows with extremely hot spots of light coming through windows that lit the atmosphere with heat giving it a feel of claustrophobia. Scenes are photographed indoor and many shots looked like they were visually storyboarded like a comic book. The famous ‘god shot’ was heavily used, where the camera looks down at the flatlands from the viewpoint of the firmament. The substantial amount of dialogue written by Anthony McCarten (Bohemian Rhapsody) in conjunction with the intentional claustrophobic cinematography leads one to believe that this story would fare well in the theatre.
Nonetheless, Darkest Hour is an inspiring film about the self-doubt we experience as humans when we’re forced to make serious decisions in our lives. Perhaps, Churchill was quoting the Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw in the film’s climax, “Those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything” followed by superimposed titles over black of Churchill’s own legendary quote: “Success is not final; failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” The Darkest Hour shines bright with victory.