Film Review: Darkest Hour

With six Oscar nominations, nine BAFTA nominations and a golden globe in the bag, Darkest Hour has already proved its fighting spirit. This film explores the life of Winston Churchill during his early Prime-ministerial days. It stars Gary Oldman as a romanticised Churchill and Ben Mendelsohn (of Rogue One fame) as King George VI.

Going into this film, I expected a terrific starring performance. Oldman has proved himself time and time again as one of the finest living actors and I felt comfortable in his hands. And to the question of whether this expectation was met, I say: (to quote a different Churchill) “Oh yes!” Oldman is enchanting as the revered war leader. No doubt, the make-up and prosthetics aid in this but he is unrecognisable amidst the mannerisms and commitment. The considerable liberties the film takes with the real Churchill are dismissed by sardonic wit and considered patience.

Aside from that, though, there isn’t much to fight on the beaches about. Mendelsohn does a fine job and Stannis Baratheon fits well with the role of ‘Stannis Baratheon-looking-politician-chap’. The costume and set design are as period-appropriate as you would expect. Beyond this and the hero worship of a historical figure, I’m unsure of the reasoning behind its nominations.

Darkest Hour‘s direction is completely serviceable but nothing stood out as exceptional after watching The Post. The dialogue, at times, feels very exposition heavy and is clumsily integrated. The contextual remarks made by characters often feel as if they were included for the benefit of the audience rather than the characters. Comments are made as wink-winks for 21st-century cinema-goers that have no value in the films setting. The film ends abruptly where it feels like it could have done with another ten minutes. None of these things are sins alone but with only a performance to distract me, this is where the mind goes.

Don’t get me wrong. Your dad will love this. The movie isn’t incompetent or un-entertaining by any stretch of the imagination. I just have to wonder, if it wasn’t for Oldman’s effort on a beloved subject matter, would Darkest Hour have surrendered long ago?