‘Darkest Hour’ Review – Definitely Not Oldman’s Darkest Hour
Definitely not Oldman’s Darkest Hour, but an impressive acting masterclass from one of our greatest.
Part of this film feels very connected to last years Dunkirk by Nolan and at times I felt as if I was watching the prequel that relied less on the spectacle of cinematography and sound, but more on the script and intricate context behind Churchill’s arrival as Prime Minister. The script was developed after Working Title picked up the script in 2015 and The Theory of Everything’s writer Anthony McCarten came on board. Once Joe Wright took up directorial duties in 2016 the production was officially put into process. The impressive Gary Oldman spent many hours in makeup each day and delivered an authentic and masterful performance that drove me once again to the History books to understand more about the political context behind this films storytelling.
The narrative takes place over a tense month in 1940 as Chamberlain is pressured into stepping down as PM and Viscount Halifax (played brilliantly by Stephen Dillane) attempts to manipulate Churchill’s first month in power in an intensely pressurised time in history. The story is not purely Churchill-centric, the ensemble of Lily James, Kristin Scott-Thomas and Ronald Pickup give the audience a variety of perspectives during the month of May in 1940. Wright’s identifiable inter-titles help the audience structure the narrative and send many of us off to the history books after the show.
The first half of the film, although needed, did drag a little and I found it affecting my concentration. It wasn’t until the showdown in the war room where Oldman delivers the (now infamous due to the trailer) ‘mouth of a tiger’ line that the film really got my focus back and I was gripped until the end.
Wright is a great storyteller, it cannot be denied. He has a craft of creating period-pieces which such authenticity and belief that it offers a nostalgia to audiences of all ages who may feel quite removed from this time. There were a few moments that pulled me from the genuine storytelling, including the twice-used tracking shot along a 1940’s London street, that hold me back from giving 5 stars but nonetheless it is a great drama and is, undeniably, Gary Oldman at his very best.