Darkest Hour (2017)

darkest hour poster 2017 movie gary oldman winston churchill
7.5 Overall Score
Story: 6/10
Acting: 9/10
Visuals: 8/10

Strong performance by Oldman

Too much unnecessarily fictionalized, slow pacing

Movie Info

Movie Name:   Darkest Hour

Studio:   Perfect World Pictures

Genre(s):   Drama/War

Release Date(s):   September 1, 2017 (Telluride Film Festival)/December 22, 2017 (US)/January 12, 2018 (UK)

MPAA Rating:   PG-13

darkest hour final speech ending winston churchill gary oldman

I will give powerful speeches…I WILL!!!

Hitler is advancing in Europe, and England is in turmoil.  With Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain (Ronald Pickup) being ousted, the lesser liked Winston Churchill (Gary Oldman) finds himself in the place of Prime Minister.  With the war with Germany growing, Churchill finds himself assailed on the homefront where his plans could be destroyed by his rivals who seek to oust him.

Directed by Joe Wright, Darkest Hour is a historical drama about Winston Churchill’s appointment to Prime Minister during World War II.  The film was met with critical acclaim and a strong box office.  The movie received Academy Award for Best Actor (Oldman) and Best Makeup and Hairstying with nominations for Best Picture, Best Cinematography, Best Costume Design, and Best Production Design.

I can’t say that I’m a huge fan of historical dramas.  The movie often dip into the basest appeal for nostalgia and exploits this nostalgia with grandiose speeches and performances.  Darkest Hour is one of those movies that is saved by a great performance…while the rest of the movie is meh.

darkest hour map room elizabeth layton winston churchill lily james gary oldman

Who do you want to bomb…just pick someone!

The biggest problem with Darkest Hour is it is a historic movie that is virtually fiction.  The movie creates storylines that never happened and builds up events that weren’t as dramatic as they were portrayed in the film.  Big scenes like Churchill’s trip to London’s underground to poll the people on the tube were fictionalized…and supposed to be the big moment in the film.  It is one of those movies that presents itself as real events and gives the false impression that it is history.  Putting all that aside, the movie plays out as expected with glorious speeches and tense moments…it is pretty cliché for this type of movie.

What saves Darkest Hour is Gary Oldman.  He is the driving force of the movie and despite other actors in the film, it virtually feels like a one-man show (which would have been an interesting idea).  Oldman has always been a chameleon and once again, he is unrecognizable as Churchill.  There is almost an interesting relationship between Oldman and Lily James (who is playing his real life secretary Elizabeth Layton) but the script doesn’t develop it much.  If it was going to fictionalize so much, I wish they done more with their growing understanding of each other.

darkest hour winston churchill underground tube gary oldman

I would love this scene…if it actually happened

The movie looks ok.  It does a lot of work with lights and darks with much of the story taking place in the shadowy underground tunnels of London and the military bunkers.  The primary feat of the movie is the makeup on Oldman and it does succeed there.

Darkest Hour is the kind of movie I find tedious.  It is obvious Oscar bait and plays it completely safe.  It manipulates history to its advantage and if it didn’t have a great performance, it would be totally a write-off.  With the events of the movie Dunkirk occurring during the story of Darkest Hour, it would be interesting to see a DunkirkDarkest Hour mash-up movie.  I know this isn’t a common view of this film, but of the Best Picture contenders of 2017, I find it the least worthy.

Related Links:

Dunkirk (2017)

The 90th Academy Award Nominations

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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