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Review: Darkest Hour

Roslyn Hull

During the early days of World War II, the fate of Western Europe hangs on the newly-appointed British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, who must decide whether to negotiate with Hitler, or fight on against incredible odds. IMDb

The entire film depicts just the first month of Churchill’s term as the British Prime Minister. The intensity of the events is such a short time is stunning. Even history making.

Love or hate Joe Wright’s films, they simply cannot be ignored. Atonement stayed with me for weeks, burrowing back into my sad consciousness again and again. The Soloist – wow. Anna Karenina – so close to perfection. Hanna – OMG. His films are characterized by amazing, sometimes alarming, tracking shots and a laserlike attention to historic detail – unless he tips accuracy on its head to shake us up!

So even if, like me, you are attempting to cling to those lazy summer yearnings for lightness and fun (and therefore ignore a rapidly advancing work schedule) – may I suggest just one evening of being a grown up? Yes, I felt I knew everything there was to know about Churchill and no, I did not think there needed to be another impersonation of the man by a noble British actor. I was delightfully wrong.

Gary Oldman has modeled for Prada, depicted Sid Vicious, George Smiley, Beethoven, Dracula and the oiliest gunrunner to have a multi-pass. How do you top all that? Not by impersonating Churchill. Like the very best ‘Hamlets’ he finds new things to say and, more importantly, to do with his body to get across the character and dive into the emotional life of the man. All of that whilst wearing a fat suit that weighed almost the same as does and enough prosthetic rubber for a bike tyre.

I am sure Wright’s direction helped but the way Oldman draws out human weakness, exposing tiny, frail chinks in the armour of the stoutest character in wartime Britain is remarkable. I am also sure that great writing helped. Anthony McCarten wrote the script for another wonderfully humanizing biopic, The Theory of Everything, which I loved. However, I am most sure that Oldman’s Golden Globe was actually and richly deserved.

The light and shade given to the story by the support actors is of a fantastic calibre. Stephen Dillane and Ronald Pickup are particularly good but Ben Mendelsohn is great! His King George retains all we know of the man, hesitancy and speech impediment included, but gives us a king focused on his duty. Masculine and reserved.

Kristin Scott Thomas is delightful as Clemmie, Churchill’s beloved wife. The close, quiet moments between the two are funny and full of love. However, there is no whitewashing (or melodrama) of their family life. With a simple look or swill of drink letting the audience see the relationship between father and children.

Even so, it is Oldman’s film and he alone is worth the price of a ticket.

Roslyn saw this film as a guest of Limelight Cinemas, Tuggeranong.

Feature image: facebook.com/pg/DarkestHourUK

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Ros Hull

Roslyn is a writer and storyteller who loves all things Canberra, her family, sci fi and movies – but not in that order. She has worked in museum education since 2001 and has a passion for imparting knowledge to others. Writing is her happy place, particularly if there is a dog at her feet and a coffee in her hand. More about the Author

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