4YE’s Big Movie Binge: The Darkest Hour

Credit: Jack English / Focus Features

Possible Excerpt: Gary Oldman rightfully claimed the Oscar for this powerful film. 

Darkest Hour is the second Oscar winner I have watched this week. I know; I’ve missed the hype train but it’s still a film that deserves to viewed, and it was definitely a film that deserved to win the awards it did. The film was beautiful, lush, well written, well acted and well shot. This was a film that lived up to my expectations fully and I’m very glad that I put it on my list.

Darkest Hour tells the story of Winston Churchill (Gary Oldman) and the incredible odds he had to overcome in his first few weeks of being Prime Minister in May 1940 and the stresses surrounded with the Battle of Dunkirk.

I have an intense fascination with World War II, and this satisfied every single one of my expectations I had for it. I learned more in this film than I did with my own research, and it made me appreciate Churchill even more than I already did.

The film was well-crafted in every sense of the word. There were so many great shots in the film that I had to resist screen capping everything I came across. The acting was stellar; Oldman definitely deserved the Oscar for his performance, and I felt that the film didn’t get mired too far into the political firestorm that surrounded Churchill at the time. Darkest Hour presented the political element in a way that wasn’t too overbearing but it was there and it drove every moment of the film.

At a brisk almost even two hours, Darkest Hour was one of those biopics that didn’t get lost in telling every single part of its historical figure’s backstory. Granted, it helps that it focuses a very small portion of Churchill’s life. However, there was plenty of backstory peppered in the dialogue that helped to flesh out his past and the past mistakes he made that helped him get to where he was in May 1940.

Oldman was a tour de force. Of course, when is he not? He captured every nuance of Churchill spectacularly well. He captured Churchill’s fierceness coupled with his very personal struggle with depression. The determination that Churchill had featured in the back half of the film when the Prime Minister is struggling with his personal convictions over negotiating for peace with Mussolini and Hitler was incredible to watch, and Oldman does it in a way that’s extremely subtle but at the same time, it is superbly powerful.

Lily James (CinderellaDowntown Abbey) plays Churchill’s typist Elizabeth Layton and she can certainly stand toe-to-toe with Oldman. In fact, their chemistry was amazing and I thought they acted off each other very well. Oldman and Ben Mendelsohn, who played the King George VI, also had amazing chemistry; Churchill and the King had an interesting relationship, and I’m glad the filmmakers explored a few of those facets of their relationship. Mendelsohn played a great King George VI and, seeing as this is the first role I’ve seen Mendelsohn in, I can’t wait to see more of him. There is a ferocity in him that I can certainly get behind.

As a whole, Gary Oldman in Darkest Hour definitely deserved his overdue Oscar win. Not only that, but the film as a whole deserves far more attention than I feel like it got. It’s structured so well and crafted to a perfection biopics typically don’t achieve.

Shelby Arnold
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