Out Now On-Demand
Never give up. Never give in.
Gary Oldman won an Oscar portraying Winston Churchill as he leads a charge against Hitler's army in the early days of World War II.
Within days of becoming Prime Minister of Great Britain, Winston Churchill must face one of his most turbulent and defining trials: exploring a negotiated peace treaty with Nazi Germany, or standing firm to fight for the ideals, liberty and freedom of a nation. As the unstoppable Nazi forces roll across Western Europe and the threat of invasion is imminent, and with an unprepared public, a skeptical King, and his own party plotting against him, Churchill must withstand his darkest hour, rally a nation, and attempt to change the course of world history.
Best Actor (Oldman) & Makeup and Hairstyling, Academy Awards 2018; Best Actor (Oldman), Golden Globes 2018
Drama, True Story & Biography, War, Historical
Rating: PG Coarse language
Bloody typical, you wait years for a good Churchill impersonation to come along and a bunch arrive at the same time. The small screen had the superb John Lithgow in The Crown, and a few months back Brian Cox delivered the cinematic goods in Churchill. That film was all about D-Day, this one is set a few years before, in the dark days leading to the evacuation in Dunkirk. It seems we can’t get enough of this complex piss-wreck who saved the world. We see Churchill the grump, the great orator, the charming old bulldog, the sozzled superhero.
Gary Oldman shines many shades of brilliant with his prosthetically-enhanced take on the old “pig” - the pet name that wife Clementine, (Kristin Scott Thomas in all her acid glory) uses during more intimate moments. But don’t worry, while there is some naked Winston flesh, Kiwi scriptwriter Anthony McCarten — who also got guys' gear off on stage with Ladies Night, long before his Oscar noms for The Theory of Everything — wasn’t game enough for a sex scene.
Sure it drags a bit and wields a heavy hand, but it is a wartime biopic after all. That said, the delights are many and plentiful. The cinematography is slick, the lighting moody, and Oldman’s Churchill is not the only one who smells like an Oscar. Neville Chamberlain (Ronald Pickup) and King George (Ben Mendelsohn) are seriously good supporting acts. For a comprehensive binge I suggest you start with this, then watch Nolan’s Dunkirk, Cox in Churchill and finish off with Downfall, in which Bruno Ganz embodies Hitler in the ultimate performance of WW2 war-doggery.
The Guardian (UK)
Stuff.co.nz (James Croot)
Darkest Hour Review
After the disappointingly dull film Churchill, in which Brian Cox portrayed Britain’s famed Prime Minister, and Christopher Nolan’s superb, but politician free, Dunkirk, it’s refreshing to see a movie that both portrays Churchill in a fascinating light, and tells the tale of how the Allies came perilously close to losing to Hitler’s advancing troops in 1940.
With the majority of the professional British army trapped on the beaches of Dunkirk, it looked like all was lost, before a desperate gamble to divert the enemy (at terrible cost), whilst evacuating Dunkirk using civilian craft paid off.
As Churchill, Gary Oldman is transformed by superb prosthetic make-up and bravura acting chops into the alcohol sodden, cigar chomping statesman, as he rises to the role of Prime Minister, taking on enemies both in his own cabinet and abroad and facing self-doubt and uncertainty.
Egged on by his wife, Clementine (a superb portrayal by Kirsten Scott Thomas), the narrative and focus on a leading actor encased in prosthetics brings to mind Anthony Hopkins and Helen Mirren in Hitchcock, in which a famed man is bolstered behind the scenes by a powerful wife.
Scripted by Kiwi Anthony McCarten, Darkest Hour sees director Joe Wright return to the war drama that made his name. His film Atonement was superb, and the director has yet to equal its achievements. In Darkest Hour, Wright keeps his camera reigned in, shooting an intense personal drama, that feels more theatrical than cinematic.
There are a couple of extravagant shots thrown in, as the camera rises from a single face up and up, through the clouds, revealing the devastation of war beneath, but these sudden cinematic flares seem out of place in what amounts to a chamber piece, more akin to German drama Downfall (the brilliant tale of Hitler’s last days), than the sweeping scale of Nolan’s recent Dunkirk.
The supporting cast are excellent, especially Ben Mendelsohn as King George, in yet another example of what a brilliant, chameleon of an actor he is. Seriously, from Killing Them Softly to Star Wars: Rogue One and now Darkest Hour, Mendelsohn might just be the greatest character actor alive today.
As to whether the central protagonist survives his personal darkest hour, with a King and nation sceptical as to his suitability to lead the country, his own party plotting to unseat him, Hitler’s advancing army, and his own self-doubt, well no spoilers here, but… D’uh!
A very enjoyable film, centred on a brilliant performance by Gary Oldman, with a cracking script featuring some brilliant dialogue, and a wonderfully over-the-top scene on the London Underground, in which Winston rides with the common folk and learns the true nature of British “pluck”.
If you loathe British movies heaping praise on British wartime heroes then Darkest Hour won’t change your mind, but if you saw Dunkirk and want to know what went on behind the scenes in London amongst the politicians and royalty, this fills in all those gaps purposely left in Nolan’s narrative.
At the end of the day, as a lifelong Oldman fan – from prick Up Your Ears through Leon to Tinker, Tailor – Gary alone is worth the price of admission.
Churchills spirit captured
Have just seen this with my teenage son. Both of us enjoyed this gripping drama.