Normally when it comes to Biopics, the quality of the film is largely determined on how closely the actors’ performances resemble the famous individuals in question. That concept perfectly describes The Darkest Hour, which takes one of the most prominent figures in world history, Winston Churchill, and gives us a look into the most pivotal period of his life during the early stages of World War II. This movie definitely nails Churchill, and has some great cinematography that truly elevates this narrative.
Churchill (Gary Oldman) has just assumed his role as the British Prime Minister, much to the chagrin of certain members of the counsel and the doubts of the Monarch King George VI (Ben Mendelsohn). Over the course of four weeks, Churchill must make the most crucial decision of his life in politics, as he must decide whether or not to negotiate with the likes of Adolf Hitler; a choice that could mean imminent invasion for Churchill and everyone involved. At this point in history, Hitler has gained a lot of momentum and is rapidly conquering those that oppose him. Churchill must decide to fight and risk the lives of the British, or cower to what is a seemingly impossible enemy.
With the story told mostly from the perspective of Churchill, the director, Joe Wright, does an excellent job of giving us an idea of the political climate at the time. People were fearful for their families, government officials were lobbying to try to influence which way Churchill will go, and even in close quarters, Churchill’s wife Clemintine (Kristin Scott Thomas) expressed concern about the indecision of Churchill. Some of the most stand-out scenes are when Churchill is delivering speeches among parliament. The cinematography of these scenes is quite engaging and the contrast of light and shadow excellently capture the tumultuous and frantic atmosphere that must’ve existed at that time.
However, for all of the great things that I can say about the Darkest Hour, the storytelling and tonal shifts do reveal some flaws. The movie sometimes shifts from a very serious tone to one that is suddenly comical, mostly due to the sometimes eccentric nature of Churchill and his conversations with others. However, sometimes these conversations have a tendency to overstay their welcome, and as a result, the film drags at certain points. It just feels as though the scenes continue even after the pivotal point has been made. It also lacks a lot of depth when it comes to the supporting cast. The supporting actors do their jobs well and their time with Gary Oldman on screen is memorable to a degree (especially Kristin Scott Thomas), but the other cast members never feel as significant as they should, which definitely lends itself to the “one man show” that the film is touted as being. Of course, Oldman carries this film with such a magnificent performance that the lack of support won’t bother you, but it does linger as something that might’ve helped the story in the long run.
All in all, this is definitely something that you should see. I recommend this for the Oldman performance alone. He truly becomes Winston Churchill and elevates this movie to great heights!
84 Screaming Parliament members frantically waving government documents out of 100 (84%)