Winston Churchill was of one the most charismatic politicians of the 20th century. His stubbornness and his refusal of Hitler’s “peace” proposals led to saving around 330 thousand lives, in both British and allied troops, from Dunkirk in 1940. One can easily say that were it not for Churchill, world would have been a different place.
Darkest Hour, directed by Joe Wright (Atonement, Anna Karenina) and written by Anthony McCarten, depicts the story of the newly-appointed British prime minister Winston Churchill during his most laborious time, with the United Kingdom knee-deep in WWII. In the film, Gary Oldman (Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy) took on the character of the prime minister, which he performed magnificently. The actor said that each role he accepts requires a lot of work and commitment, but the role of Churchill was “truly difficult”; to become Churchill, he had to wear half of his own weight on his shoulders. Undoubtedly, Gary Oldman adopted the posture and movements of the legendary man really well, including his manner of speech.
Oldman’s Churchill doubts his position as the prime minister and is isolated from his own party as well as the opposition. Apart from his devoted wife, Clementine Churchill (Kristin Scott Thomas: The Woman in the Fifth, Bel Ami), no one really believes in him, including King George VI (Ben Mendelsohn: Bloodline). But the situation changes when France falls to Germany and over 330,000 soldiers are trapped on the beach in Dunkirk. Churchill ‘battles’ against Neville Chamberlain (Ronald Pickup) and Edward Wood, 1st Earl of Halifax (Stephen Dillane) and their plans to seek peace with Hitler. Then an unexpected Churchill’s escapade on the public transport leads him to a conclusion that the surrender or peace with Germany is unacceptable; and his straightforward thinking and a request that he makes to the English fishermen, to help the soldiers stranded in Dunkirk, turns horror into a miracle…
Churchill isn’t famous only for being the UK’s most prominent prime minister; he also went down in history for giving encouraging and uplifting speeches; the politician did not see himself as a natural speaker, but rather one who worked hard to sharpen his skills. Nevertheless, when Churchill put words to paper and then spoke them out loud, change was immediate – his speeches were powerful and had a major impact on the world affairs. And as Oldman spoke Churchill’s words, he took the audience on an exciting journey.
Joe Wright’s film highlights the events prior the evacuation of Dunkirk. It shows the persona of Churchill and his personal battle with what might be right or wrong for his countrymen; without a doubt, the production is full of emotions. With the stellar cast, Wright directed an Oscar-worthy film. The cinematography by Bruno Delbonnel, known for Inside Llewyn Davis, is first-class; the scenes that were shot in the small parliamentary chambers were a great achievement. Darkest Hour is accompanied by the beautiful score by Dario Marianelli, who often collaborates with Joe Wright, and his score adds a lot to the entire film.
The film might not be to everyone’s taste as it is a political drama in the full sense. I found it to be a great film about the man that I didn’t know that much about beforehand, even if it was impossible not to know of his existence. And since the Academy Award nominations are just around the corner, there is the question – will Darkest Hour bring an Oscar to Gary Oldman? I bet it will.
Written by Maggie Gogler
Edited by Sanja Struna
All photos © Focus Features