Winston Churchill, as I’m sure you’re aware, is an iconic historical figure. That sentence almost doesn’t need to be said. With iconic historical figures, there comes the inevitable movie adaptation, or in Churchill’s case, adaptations. Plural. Darkest Hour is the latest of a long string of cinematic appearances, not even being the first this year, however, of all the ones I’ve seen, it’s the one that paints this man at his most human. This isn’t merely the story of a Prime Minister who helped save the war. It’s the story of a man at his wits end, pushing back against a government who wants to overthrow him, and also helping save the war while he’s at it.
He was the man chosen to save them. The man who they hoped would bring an end to the fighting. Instead, Churchill saw what nobody else could. He saw that the only way to achieve victory was to fight it out until the bloody end, much to the world’s disarray. Darkest Hour depicts his steep uphill battle to rise amongst the ranks and earn the respect he knows he deserves. It’s a large-scale story depicted in a very small way. Nearly everything is confined to small, underground rooms, where tension is high and the stakes are critical, all while mixing in moments of humour sparsely but effectively throughout.
Oscar nominee Anthony McCarten has described Darkest Hour as his passion project. He handles the screenplay with diligence and humanity. He brings a breath of fresh air to the Churchill story, giving us something we haven’t seen before, while simultaneously telling a story depicted similarly on-screen several times before. His dialogue is fast and impactful, even if he often gets lost in his numbing political conversations, where old white dudes ramble on about topics that didn’t need to be discussed in such great depth. Still, when Churchill is giving a speech, the auditorium quiets down, and understandably so.
Everything you’re going to hear about Gary Oldman’s performance will be said to death, but it’s all true. Every last bit of it. It’s an unrecognisable and truly breathtaking portrayal of Churchill that’s sure to go down as one of the most talked about performances of the last few years. He doesn’t just look like Churchill, thanks to an immaculate make-up job, but he becomes Churchill. Oldman personifies this man into cinematic bliss. So many different scenes could be played during his Oscar-montage, however my personal favourite scene sees him riding the subway with regular citizens. It’s Churchill at his most subtle and relaxed, and it’s easily my favourite scene from this movie.
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