Director: Joe Wright
Starring: Gary Oldman, Kristin Scott Thomas & Lily James
Review Author: Shaun
Happy New Year to you all! In Ireland, the start of a new year brings us the release of the Oscar hopefuls. The first Oscar hopeful on our radar was Darkest Hour. All the buzz surrounding Darkest Hour for the last few months involved how much Gary Oldman did not look like Gary Oldman. The makeup work in this film to transform him into Winston Churchill is astounding. It kind of goes without saying that the makeup artists involved deserve an insane amount of recognition because I forgot I was watching Gary Oldman. The actor is no stranger to total transformations like this, but the prosthetics in this film are quite possibly some of the best I’ve ever seen (his frog keck convincingly jiggled).
Oldman himself is fantastic. Winston Churchill would not be the first role one would consider for Oldman and yet he gives the best onscreen of the legendary leader. He sells every scene with incredible passion and he disappears into his character, all makeup work aside. Lily James and Ben Mendelsohn are also standouts here in key roles, but they never outshine the true star. It’s made clear early on that Oldman is going to be the centre of attention, and he fully embraces that in a few particularly extravagant moments.
Darkest Hour is a film that explores what went on behind the scenes during World War II and Churchill’s early days in office. At times it seems to rely on the viewer to either pay attention to every detail or to already know a bit of backstory. I don’t want to discredit a film for requiring its viewer to pay attention to every line of dialogue, but it did lose me a few times and the pacing suffered because of it.
It did find ways to fascinate me. A few scenes really amp up the triumphant atmosphere that few political dramas contain, the political squabbling is not only fascinating but also gives weight to the real-life events that followed. The performances and the musical score really support those moments, while other moments bring to light who Winston Churchill was as a person, which are possibly even more impactful. There’s a wonderful scene that takes place in the London Underground that gave us a very personal look into how Churchill interacted with people. The citizens riding the train are fascinated by his presence, and he just speaks to them like he’s known them for a long time.
Darkest Hour is an exploration of an extremely influential man’s life. It gives an insight into both sides of that life. We get to be a part of his relationship with his wife and with his personal secretary, and we also get to see how he impacted the United Kingdom and the world after being made Prime Minister. Interestingly, it takes place during the Battle of Dunkirk and works as a companion piece to Nolan’s film of the same name. While Dunkirk focused on the event itself and the rescue of British soldiers, in this biopic we get to see everything behind the scenes that lead to that rescue. Both stories are fascinating in their own ways, and they complement each other wonderfully.
Rating: 4 / 5 tumblers of Whiskey