Darkest Hour

Drama

Drama film directed by Joe Wright Discuss this article

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© ITP Images

Sure, Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk blew us away with its immersiveness. But if you prefer your Second World War movies to have a little dialogue, shape and (is it too much to ask?) a bit of powerhouse acting, director Joe Wright’s tense profile of the rising prime minister Winston Churchill is the one to beat.

Wright, it’s worth remembering, has been on those gory French beaches before, with 2007’s Atonement, capturing the whole of the British evacuation and its surrounding chaos in a legendary five-minute tracking shot. As if pulling a been-there-Dunkirk-that, he now shifts to the strategy sessions, bunker hand-wringing and political gamesmanship that fed into England’s finest hour.

At first you won’t believe your eyes, seeing Gary Oldman – still, in some perverse way, the alive presence from Sid and Nancy – buried under what must be pounds of prosthetic facial architecture. (The radical make-up work is by artist Kazuhiro Tsuji.) But your mind quickly gets you where you need to be, as we watch Oldman’s Churchill roughing up our expectations: crouching on his bedroom floor to capture a wayward cat and mixing it up with his cowed, dutiful secretary Elizabeth (Lily James).

The performance is a marvel; what could have been a stunt is a soulful portrayal of leadership, tinged with ego, doubt and the demands of a terrible moment.

Churchill’s refusal to back down is well-trod ground, but Darkest Hour makes it fresh. There’s one misstep: a fictionalised crowd-pleasing sequence set on the London Underground, in which Churchill appeals to the advice of everyday citizens. But the movie survives it, leaving you with a dizzying sense of history in the making.

The bottom line
Gary Oldman is Best Actor Oscar immense.

By Joshua Rothkopf
Time Out Doha,

Darkest Hour

  • Released: Thu, 11 Jan
  • Language: English
  • Director: Joe Wright
  • Stars: Gary Oldman, Lily James

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