Wednesday, December 20, 2017

[Review] Darkest Hour

Believe it or not -- Darkest Hour is approximately the third film this year that involves the events of Dunkirk (the underrated Their Finest and of course Christopher Nolan's Dunkirk are the others). And believe it or not -- that's Gary Oldman playing Winston Churchill under all that makeup, padding, and prosthetics, as he gives a truly transformative performance in this well-crafted WWII drama.

It's the year 1940 -- on the cusp of wartime -- and Britain is in need of a new Prime Minister. Stepping in (or should I say waddling in) to take on the enormous task is the self-deprecating, eccentric, and huffy Winston Churchill. The film follows him as he administers orders, despite the little faith his peers have him. "A drunkard at the wheel," they say. And he just might be.

Directed by Joe Wright (Atonement), the film is handsomely shot and stocked with rich drama. And while it still has that standard period piece and biopic feel to it, it avoids being too stuffy or run-of-the-mill, for the most part. While Dunkirk hit the frontlines, Darkest Hour dives into the behind-the-scenes action with smokey vigor. The film's pace does slow at times, but there's an ever-present sense of urgent tension beneath it all.

The supporting cast sees the always consistent Ben Mendelsohn clocking in as King George VI, and Kristin Scott Thomas solidly plays Clementine Churchill, but this film is undoubtedly a showcase for Gary Oldman. He's virtually unrecognizable without being distracting, and he practically cannonballs into this chewy role with bumbling, animated, and theatrical enthusiasm, while conveying just enough depth, nuance, and rousing speeches -- you know -- all the stuff that the Academy really likes.

Darkest Hour is far from my favorite film this Oscar season, but I certainly respect it.

( 7.5/10 )

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