Darkest Hour is set in the beginning of World War 2, the Nazis are in the process of conquering Europe and things are looking bleak for the allies. Luckily, they have a secret weapon, a drunken, elderly secret weapon who yells at women and scolds Kings, yes, it’s Winston Churchill to the rescue, a man with a wit so sharp you could use it to cut the tension he causes by speaking.
The story begins with the Labour party demanding the resignation of current Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, asserting that he is too weak to lead Britain in war time and that it’s time for new leadership. But of course, it wouldn’t be British politics if there wasn’t a load of secret dinners and hand shaking going on, and after one Sunday dinner, and a refusal from their first choice Edward Wood (Stephen Dillane) the back-stabbing buggers decide to bring in old “Winnie” Churchill (Gary Oldman) to sort shit out.(“Right, which one of you buggers, nicked me scotch?!”)
But it’s clear from the secret Boy George esq meetings that are happening in various bathrooms that they are setting Churchill up to fail, and planning to supplant him with Wood, who refused the position once already…. wait what? I won’t go into the story any more for fear of spoilers, but given that it’s a historical biographical film based around one of the biggest conflicts to ever happen to mankind, and not to mention the fact that we don’t speak German I should hope spoilers won’t be an issue, never the less I’ll say no more…………………. the Germans lost.
When you set out to make a drama set during World War II with no combat scenes what so ever, it will inevitably fall to the narrative and the actors to carry the film. And if the narrative wavers, the burden falls solely on the shoulders of the actors, luckily for Darkest Hour however in the rare moments the plot did threaten to slow down, Gary Oldman was right there to breathe life back into it. He delivered one of the most impressive performances I have ever witnessed in cinema. Not only did Oldman manage to bring to life the electric wit and the huge personality of Winston Churchill, but he also managed to capture a warmth, and very human side of the man, something that had yet to be done.
That’s not to say that the film was carried solely by Oldman’s performance, it is true that the story could be a little shaky at times, but it was still well told and engaging. It was great to see an aspect of World War II told from a point in time where it genuinely seemed like surrender was the only option and that victory would be something far off and hard won.
Once again, I find myself praising the musical score of a film, but I feel I have to make mention of it in this film as more than once I found myself being moved by the accompanying music, be it the melancholic melodies that you hear when all hope of victory seemed lost, or the inspiring crescendo that accompanied Churchill’s rousing speeches. Each note seemed expertly timed and tailored perfectly to each scene, a perfect marriage of sight and sound.
That said, it is not without its issues, as I mentioned earlier there are one or two problems with the narrative, it can feel a little long winded at times, because despite the stellar performance from Oldman it is still going to be difficult to keep the pace up when it is, in essence, a film about old men talking for two hours. I also felt, and this may just be me, with the exception of Oldman and one or two scenes from Kristin Scott Thomas, the remainder of the cast do little to bring the film to life and end up seeming superfluous.
Despite one or two minor issues with the narrative, Darkest Hour still manages to deliver a gripping drama that showcases Gary Oldman’s immense talent as an actor, an amazing story that is both enthralling and moving, and accompanied by a wonderful musical score, a must see.