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Dan's Review: "Darkest Hour" a great portrait of a great man

Dec 22, 2017 11:00PM ● Published by Dan Metcalf

Kristin Scott Thomas and Gary Oldman in Darkest Hour - © 2017 Focus Features.

Darkest Hour (Focus Features)

Rated PG-13 for some thematic material.

Starring Gary Oldman, Ben Mendelsohn, Kristin Scott Thomas, Lily James, Ronald Pickup, Stephen Dillane, Nicholas Jones, Richard Lumsden, Jeremy Child.

Written by Anthony McCarten.

Directed by Joe Wright.

GRADE: A

REVIEW:

History is kind to some, and especially cruel to others. You may not know who Neville Chamberlain is, but you’ve more than like heard of Winston Churchill. Those who are familiar with Chamberlain are more than likely not very fond of him, but Churchill’s favorable legacy is in tact, due to his moment in history, especially is it’s played in Darkest Hour, Joe Wright’s film about the English prime minister’s handling of Hitler at the dawn of World War II.

Gary Oldman plays Churchill, who ascends to England’s highest political office after Chamberlain’s (Ronald Pickup) failure to negotiate peace with Hitler, whose armies had already run the British out of France and Belgium, leading them to a desperate final stand at Dunkirk.  Churchill’s selection as prime minister came as a compromise between parties and with little faith from King George IV (Ben Mendelsohn). With the support of a young, new secretary Elizabeth (Lily James) and his devoted wife Clementine (Kristin Scott Thomas), Churchill battles Parliament and the English War Cabinet, led by Lord Halifax (Stephen Dillane), most of whom want him to negotiate a peace treaty with the Nazis. As the situation worsens at Dunkirk, Churchill must decide capitulation over standing his ground, a decision that will have far-reaching impact on the survival of England, not to mention the future of Hitler’s regime. The rest, as they say…is history, and if paid any attention during your history classes in high school, you now how things turn out (spoiler: the Nazis lose).

Knowing history and understanding it are two different propositions, and Darkest Hour adds a rich, detailed background to one of the greatest figures of the modern age. We know Churchill was a guy who refused to quit, but Gary Oldman’s brilliant portrayal of this stalwart adds a very human element to this great (and flawed) man. Joe Wright’s direction and some clever editing also keep Darkest Hour from slipping into a boring political process movie. It’s a very good film, and one that will make anyone who reveres freedom and decries fascism stand up and cheer for Churchill, and give him due props for demonstrating the proper way to respond to a monster like Hitler.

Darkest Hour is a movie about one of the bright spots in History; a time when one man had the courage to stand up for his beliefs, even when his own allies had no belief in him.  It’s also a great companion film for Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk, which showed the same moment in history from the soldier’s perspective.

 

Darkest Hour Trailer

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