“I smell an Oscar nomination,” Chicago-based film critic Dann Gire said as he settled into his seat before the screening of The Darkest Hour began.
Gire’s estimation isn’t far off as Gary Oldman delivers his most riveting and notable performance in The Darkest Hour and flourishes as Winston Churchill. The film stands strong and tall as one of the most prominent biopic films that supplement Dunkirk as the events of French pleas from British militia fall subsequent of one another. Scenes of 1940’s London are painted hauntingly reminiscent of England during World War II and immerse into breathtakingly charming angles of the camera or clever playing with lighting that accentuates features brilliantly. Oldman is unrecognizable as he internalizes the Prime Minister and his skill is transcendent as he lifts the film to new heights.
The supporting cast is complementary to the interpretation of Churchill and each presents themselves independent of one another, yet their interaction is captivating. The score is elegant and graceful through the cries of violins and the carefulness of piano. The Darkest Hour presents the boldness and deterioration of the Prime Minister through his most extreme decisions with poise, eloquence, and power.
The film is sensible and flares with humor as Churchill witnesses Hitler’s rise to power, and the chaos that unfolds within Parliament as members cry out for order. Kristin Scott Thomas is strong and unwavering as Clementine Churchill and often engages in witty banter or solidifies her position with strong, confident advice when needed. The typist, otherwise known as Ms. Elizabeth Layton (Lily James,) is a static character that serves as an outlet for Churchill to vent his sporadic speeches or to appeal towards the more emotional take of the Prime Minister as the war becomes more overbearing.
King George VI (Ben Mendelsohn) comes to his senses eventually as he and Churchill simply do not see eye-to-eye and are polar when it comes to personality, but The Darkest Hour allows time to spare as each relationship is given a backbone and results with a consoling friendship when Churchill is given the weight of war to bear.
Oldman, reciting Churchill’s speeches, are breathtaking and eerie as each word is gusted with unbreakable power and determination. Contrary to impressive lectures, exposure is given to his more vulnerable side while speaking to commoners riding the Underground.
The events of contesting Chamberlain, waging war, plotting the retreat from Dunkirk or preparing for Operation Dynamo, The Darkest Hour is historically keen and gracefully depicts the age of war, though emphasizes the swelling of anger as other nations grow wearier, and the fact that Mussolini must be cooperated with is faced.
Peace is striven for, but at the same time, Oldman presents a stubborn and proud Churchill that is reluctant to change unless it’s absolutely dire.
The opening scene shows Parliment quieted in their debate, and the lack of handkerchiefs waving in approval is scarce. As the film circles around to it’s close, the English leader is fanfared off with the unanimous and thunderous flapping of cloths that hail to his standing ovation as he strides with storm-like confidence from the meeting hall. The final scene, much like the opening scene, is a gorgeous conclusion.