I was going to open with a pun about how you shouldn’t confuse this film with the 2011 turkey about aliens invading Moscow via it’s electricity supply starring a young Judge Anderson.
But i’m not, nor am I going to have a running gag about this film in the review. In fact i’m not going to mention it again because Darkest Hour (2017) has seriously, seriously hacked me off.
Because I need someone to explain something to me.
How is it that a British story, starring a British cast, set entirely in London, directed by a Brit and funded by a British company ( Working Title Films Limited) is coming to Britain 3 MONTHS after being released in the rest of the world? 1 September in the colonies, 1 December in China, 2 December in France and 18 November in Poland!?!! Seriously? I mean I get that this is the film that’s probably going to get Gary Oldmans prosthetics (and probably the rest of him) an Oscar and it’s great to see Churchill portrayed as a man who happened to be right once after a career featuring some horrific blunders as opposed to the messianic figure he’s usually portrayed as being.
Because Churchill wasn’t a universally beloved light in the darkness, he was a controversial figure, a man who, despite winning the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1953 for “his mastery of historical and biographical description as well as for brilliant oratory in defending exalted human values” was at risk of a vote of no-confidence within days as he refused to entertain the idea of peace talks with Nazi Germany when fighting on looked like a futile choice.
And I love that this film is telling a mostly true story (aside from one scene set on a tube train which seriously grated on me is entirely fictional and completely unnecessary). As the WW2 generation passes, it’s important that we have films that tell the truth (or as close to it as we can manage.)
And this is a really well acted film, Oldman has deserved an Oscar for years and this performance deserves one in its own right as he chomps through £18,000 worth of cigars, (although at times I could have sworn he was swapped out for Bill Nighy) which was slightly disconcerting. But it didn’t take away from the fact that Oldman is equally at home laughing at a joke told by Lily James playing a…. an audience insert character (and someone for him to for him to be at first grumpy and then soppy with) as he is delivering some of Churchills most famous speeches.
Now, wisely the film opts to only show the early days of Churchills time as Prime Minister- establishing his government- winning the trust of his people and dealing with the situation at Dunkirk via the medium of “mobilizing the English language and sending it into battle.”
Which is a good call as not only is this an overlooked aspect of Churchills time as Prime Minister but it also opens the door for further films to examine other critical times during the war: The Blitz for example.
More House of Cards 1940 than Saving Private Ryan, Darkest Hour is a very good, if slightly limited film about a very important time in history. And it’s defiantly more than your traditional Oscar bait film. And I won’t even mind when it inevitably turns up in history classes.
My Score- See It