Winston Churchill was a Prime Minister that was granted his position because of the oncoming war. He took up the position and lead England to victory. He is remembered for his inspiring speeches and iconic look. Darkest Hour tells the story of Churchill gaining position and his first few days as the leader of Britain.
Director Joe Wright is nothing if not someone that has a visual vision for his movies. They always have a haunting look to them, thick with atmosphere. He’s an expressionistic illustrator, not a accurate photographer. Take for example that most of the sets have one large source of lighting that casts across the room, leaving a lot of it in shadows. Why would anyone have this for a Parliament meeting or in Buckingham Palace? They wouldn’t really, it’s to create a sense of mood, he has never let realism get in the way of creating a good shot.
Obviously the main point of focus has gone to Gary Oldman and his performance. His makeup alone probably took a heap of effort and cost to execute. He slouches and walks in the way that we have to recognise as the man from photographs, illustrations and footage. When he stares at his obstacle he is like a bulldog ready to tear it apart, whether it strategic problem or political member that stands against him. For his characterisation he is a blend of cantankerous, fastidious, shrewd and more than comfortable in indulging in his vices (constantly smoking his cigar and a glass of brandy in-hand). Oldman, along with everything else manipulates his voice to match the real mans very closely as well as being able to act with it.
Surrounding Oldman are a few other players that are also on point. As it’s been said behind every great man is a great woman, there is his wife Clementine (Kristen Scott Thomas) that knew the man she chose the spend the rest of her life with was more than flawed and would only spare her half his time. Joining him at the start of the movie is his new assistant Elizabeth Nel (Lilly James), trepidatious in some ways but also spirited in others. King George IV (Ben Mendelson), that is not the happiest about Churchill’s election but deals with him and eventually gains respect for the man.
There is always a blurry line when it comes to adapting historical events and people into a piece of entertainment. You don’t want to completely lie and deface the memory of what happened but at the same time adjustments must be made for passing and fitting it all into the running time. So the question is how does this one do? It accurately dates it’s big events in the plot with fat dates over the screen, I don’t doubt their accuracy. I feel like this movies goal is about engaging the spirit of having a man that knows how to tackle the threat of Hitler even though he might not be the most polite and likable person. so it is the spirit of the movie you need to connect with rather than be pedantic about it’s accuracy.
The movie has striking visuals and good performances from it’s players. But the experience is lacking of a soul. It simply comes off as trying too hard and you can practically detect that the creators had an Oscar in-mind when they were creating it. Whether it will win any I do not know, it does deserve a few nominations and might very well win a few. But the prodding for the recognition is simply too obvious.