Darkest Hour – Film Review

Rating : 3.5 / 5 stars

What’s it About?

Darkest Hour is a World War 2 political drama directed by Joe Wright and starring Gary Oldman, Lily James and Kristin Scott Thomas among others.

The film chronicles the ascension, and the first month, of Winston Churchill  as the Prime Minister of England during World War 2. With England on the brink of being invaded by the Nazis, Churchill had to plan how to defend his country by making some tough decisions, all the while trying to fight off immense political pressure from his party and the opposition to surrender. How he managed to do this and inspire England to continue fighting is what the rest of the film is about.

What’s Good?

The film benefits from its dramatic treatment of the subject matter,  where war council meetings and other political meetings between Churchill and his opponents have been presented with a lot of flair and urgency. It gives us this behind the scenes glimpse into all the  machinations that Churchill had to set in motion in order to stop England from surrendering to the Nazis. Also, it helps us better understand the way the mind of Churchill, who was a very controversial person at the time, worked.

Credit must be given to the writers for some of the dialogues in the film, which are quite moving and inspiring. The background music of the film also deserves special mention as it enhances the mood and urgency of the situation being portrayed. Lastly, the make up on Gary Oldman is excellent, convincing the viewer that it is infact Churchill and not Oldman on screen!

What’s Not?

Halfway into the film it becomes obvious that Lily James’s character is not relevant to the film and is more of a viewer surrogate where the proceedings are explained to her and by extension the viewer. This whole trope could have been tackled at the screenplay level in a better way. Another issue that was prominent nearing the end of the film was the way it handled the change of heart that certain important characters had regarding Churchill’s stand on facing the Nazis on the battlefield. This change of heart is shown as an afterthought and does not seem organic to the story. Lastly, the casual viewer may not be able to piece together what Churchill had done in his first chance as Prime Minister that he was so out of favor among his own party workers, and why the opposition wanted him to be PM during wartime in the first place.

Performances

Gary Oldman as Winston Churchill is absolutely brilliant. He is the life and soul of the film and carries the film squarely on his shoulder. This is probably the best performance he has ever given in his long career. Lilly James is good as his naïve young secretary, but her character does not seem very important to the film. Kristin Scott Thomas as Churchill’s wife is decent but has very limited screen time. Rest of the cast is very good in their respective roles  but do not have enough screen time to make an impression.

Final Word

A gritty, high stakes drama about England’s decision to continue fighting the Nazis who were almost at their doorstep during World War 2, this film is a great watch for all film aficionados!


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