Darkest Hour - Review

When an actor is described as "carrying" a film, it usually does not speak well of the total picture. While Darkest Hour does rest on the shoulders of Gary Oldman in many ways, it does enough to stand on its own and remain interesting, despite its leading man. 

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Darkest Hour has an acute understanding of its subject; Winston Churchill, the once Prime Minister of the U.K. and generally thought of to have saved Britain from destruction in World War Two, is given a film worthy of his stature. His introduction is grand, yet shallow. We first see him as a man confined to his bed, with a cruel temper. Much of the film chooses to paint his accomplishments as products of his day to day life, as if they were simple decisions in his routine rather than the world-affecting orders and speeches history remembers. 

The film focuses mainly on the view from the war room, as Churchill argues his way through the preliminary weeks of his office. This keeps Darkest Hour from feeling like a copy-paste war film, but it also holds it back. Without seeing the consequences of Churchill's orders, we as the audience are without perspective. A few attempts are made at showing the p.o.v. of the army, but they are too bland to remedy the issue. Whereas Christopher Nolan's Dunkirk expertly portrayed the soldiers's view of WWII, Darkest Hour takes place mostly from the control room. If the two films were viewed back to back, it would be a great double feature. 

Gary Oldman is as great as ever in Darkest Hour, foregoing much of his own talent as an actor in favor of a surreal imitation. As he has done in films like Sid and Nancy and Bram Stoker's Dracula, Oldman plays a character; someone nothing like himself, requiring an accurate impersonation. He plays Winston as flawlessly as one might imagine, with all the faux bravado and sheepishness the real Churchill was known for. The supporting cast does a fine job as bumpers for him to bounce off, putting them in the unfortunate place of only being as interesting as Winston is in a scene.

Darkest Hour can be infuriating, hard to understand, and difficult to watch at times; a testament to the superb talents of Gary Oldman and director Joe Wright, who have crafted a vision here as interesting as it is accurate.