Film review: The Darkest Hour is a thrilling and engaging drama
- Credit: Universal Pictures/Focus Features
From Richard Attenborough’s excellent Young Winston (1972) to Jonathan Teplitzky’s Churchill (2017), Winston Churchill has been the subject of countless historical dramas and biopics that have dealt with various stages of the near-mythical figure’s life.
Joe Wright’s Darkest Hour explores a small but defining part of the former Prime Minister’s career and is a thrilling and engaging drama, which features an electrifying central performance from Gary Oldman.
Set in May 1940, the film focuses on the first four weeks of Churchill’s premiership as he struggles against strong opposition from his own cabinet and faces the unthinkable prospect - unthinkable to him, if not to others - of entering peace talks with Hitler.
As Churchill, Oldman is phenomenal. Only partly hidden behind Kazuhiro Tsuji’s stunning, jowly prosthetics, the actor beautifully embodies the former PM, perfectly capturing the fragility beneath his high-volume outbursts and tactless asides.
Kristin Scott Thomas is every bit his equal as his wife Clementine. The calm, humorous moments the actors share are some of the film’s most moving and give it much of its heart.
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Wright must also be praised. The director along with cinematographer Bruno Delbonnel’s claustrophobic camerawork expertly captures the growing isolation, fear and uncertainty Churchill experiences as the pressure mounts for him to strike a deal with Germany.
Despite the fine supporting work and magnificent direction, the film is Oldman’s. His performance alone makes it worth watching, a tour-de-force at the heart of a captivating, moving and superbly performed film.
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