By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Movie review: Oldman's Churchill shines in WWII drama 'Darkest Hour'
Gary Oldman stars as Winston Churchill in director Joe Wright's Darkest Hour." - photo by Josh Terry
DARKEST HOUR 3 stars Gary Oldman, Lily James, Kristin Scott Thomas, Ben Mendelsohn, Stephen Dillane; PG-13 (thematic material); in general release

Fans of Winston Churchill should be feeling spoiled this year. In addition to the usual yearly run of World War II-themed films such as Their Finest and Christopher Nolans Dunkirk, 2017 has offered a pair of Churchill biopics.

The first Jonathan Teplitzkys Churchill was centered around the British prime ministers opposition to the Allied D-Day invasion. Joe Wrights Darkest Hour goes back a few years previous, to the events that preceded the London Blitz.

We join the film in May of 1940, as Neville Chamberlain (Ronald Pickup) is about to be run out of the Prime Minister's Office by the British Parliament. Churchill (Gary Oldman) is the odds-on favorite to take his place, having already accumulated years of political reputation, but the appointment isnt without controversy. The opposition is heated, and even King George (Ben Mendelsohn) is hesitant to put Churchill in the prime ministers chair.

Part of the problem a big part of the problem is that the Allies are losing the war. Hitler has been making substantial progress, sweeping through Europe, and as Churchill settles in, his primary task is to address an effort that is looking less and less hopeful.

The Churchill we see is introduced as a bit of a doddering character, almost a little buffoonish, but as the prime minister works his way through the issues, he slowly takes on a reassuring candor.

As viewers navigate the film's narrative of political intrigue which actually works as a behind the scenes to Nolans Dunkirk, which chronologically is happening around the same time Churchill is faced with a daunting decision. He can yield to internal pressure to negotiate a peace agreement with Hitler, essentially ceding the continent to the Nazis and potentially becoming the Fuhrers puppet across the channel. Or he can stand against Hitler, risking the British army, its people and his own position, with little hope that the German army can be repelled.

Darkest Hour takes a while to get going, but once the pieces are in place and Churchill gets down to business, Wrights film picks up a great deal of momentum. Throughout the films 125-minute running time, Wright frequently makes use of intense and dramatic lighting to intensify the story which helps considering so much of the action is happening offscreen.

Oldmans performance as Churchill is one of many unique turns hes had throughout a distinguished career. Under heavy prosthetics, hes almost unrecognizable as the prime minister, and truly throws himself into the role. "Darkest Hour" will be remembered for Oldman's immersive performance more than anything else.

The cast is also bolstered by Kristin Scott Thomas, who plays Churchills wife Clementine, and Lily James, who performs a supporting role as Elizabeth Layton, the latest of many secretaries who have been tormented by Churchills taskmaster behavior.

Taken alongside Churchill and Dunkirk and Their Finest, Darkest Hour is a compelling addition to a run of 2017 films that have sought to explore lesser-known aspects of World War II. Only a historian could explain whether Wrights effort is fully accurate, but at the very least, Darkest Hour serves as a unique portrait of a leader, and a testament to the bravery of a British people who were at their best when things were worst.

Darkest Hour is rated PG-13 for some thematic material; running time: 125 minutes.
Sign up for our E-Newsletters