Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Movie Review: DARKEST HOUR (2017) Starring Gary Oldman


Director: Joe Wright
Genre: Biography, Drama, History
Starring: Gary Oldman, Lily James, Kristin Scott Thomas, Ben Mendelsohn, Stephen Dillane
Runtime: 125 min
Rating: PG-13 for some thematic material
Purchasing Links: DVD, Blu-ray

Read the review after the jump.


Review by Popa Razvan

Biopics featuring personalities that changed the course of history are among films the Oscars love to shower with awards. In that regard, "Darkest Hour" fits the bill, but while it's the typical awards magnet, it's given an injection of vitality by director Joe Wright's stylish direction.

The film is a high-octane drama that traces Winston Churchill's rocky start as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom in 1940, a time when the country was under threat of invasion from Hitler in the early days of World War II. Churchill found himself in a difficult position. An outcast within his own party, with a track record that made him unpopular, and the British army nearing a massacre at Dunkirk, Churchill had to choose between negotiating with Hitler, or fighting against crushing odds. With his back against the wall, Churchill made history.

Although it may seem that way from the trailers, this isn't yet another stuffy political biopic. While based on history, most of it is more a matter of historical fiction, which Wright injects with enough style and energy that the end result becomes unexpectedly rousing. Bruno Delbonnell's incredible cinematography and Sarah Greenwood's production design add to the film's heightened visual style, and the brisk pacing makes the film all the more entertaining to watch despite the plot revolving mostly around politics and negotiations with a dash of inner turmoil.

But, above all else, this is Gary Oldman's show. It's not exactly a one-man show, as the film benefits greatly from the supporting turns of Kristin Scott Thomas as Churchill's wife, Lily James as his assistant, Ben Mendelsohn as King George VI, and Stephen Dillane as Viscount Halifax, Churchill's foreign secretary who tried to negotiate peace with the Nazis. However, the film depends almost exclusively on Oldman's performance, and it's a sight to behold, a tour de force that rises above mimicry, adding intricate subtleties to the well-known historical figure. When done right, as is the case here, a character such as Churchill comes alive from the pages of history books, and through the actor's methodical craft allows us more insight into the man behind the legend. Even though the film mixes plenty of fiction with the facts, it's still an intriguing portrait of a complicated political man.

If there is a problem with the film, it would be that if you take away all the sparkly production values, it doesn't really add up to much more than a decent biopic, driven mainly by Oldman's performance. Nothing Wright adds visually has any impact on the story. They are neat distractions that added a couple of extra Oscar nominations to its awards tally, but light on substance. Don't expect it to challenge genre conventions.

Was it really worthy of a Best Picture nomination ? I'm not really sure. But Oldman deserved the win. No matter how you feel about its accolades, it's a film I can easily recommend, especially if, like me, you enjoy biopics or political dramas. Otherwise, it might be wise to skip it.



  • Gary Oldman's riveting performance
  • Solid supporting performances.
  • Gorgeous cinematography and production design
  • Wright adds energy and style to an otherwise by-the-numbers biopic

  • Some liberties have been take with historical truth
  • Remove the style and there's not much substance
  • Nothing groundbreaking



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