Darkest Hour Review
Films about war generally fall in to two categories, either full on action like Saving Private Ryan or Dunkirk or they go down the Joe Wright route of filmmaking. The Oscar winning Darkest Hour, starring Gary Oldman and Kristen Scott Thomas uses the written word as a form of artillery; language is as persuasive as a pistol pointed at your face. Unsurprising given Wright's previous works, he loves an adaptation: Pride & Prejudice, Anna Karenina and Atonement.
There have been many biopics depicting the life of leader Winston Churchill, with a multitude of actors playing him, from Richard Burton to Christian Slater, Bob Hoskins to Brendan Gleeson and most recently John Lithgow and Brian Cox. Of course, only one portrayal won the coveted Best Actor award at the 90th Academy Awards.
Darkest Hour only covers a short period of time, primarily the first few uncertain weeks of Churchill's role as Prime Minister after the ousting of Neville Chamberlain following a vote of no confidence in May 1940, at the precipice of World War II. Churchill refuses to negotiate for peace and it is the fallout of the Battle of France and Dunkirk which the film focusses on while an unimpressed and distrustful King George VI (Ben Mendelsohn) looks on. What stands out across the run time is the celebration of the English language. The stirring, hairs on the back of your neck speeches that Churchill was famous for play out in oak panelled boardrooms and stuffy cabinet war rooms, showcasing Anthony McCarten's script with not one word is wasted revelling revels in its oratory.
Wright utilises his camera to full effect and DoP Bruno Delbonnel paints a picture in each frame as light cuts through window panes highlighting the thick dust in the air surrounding old men harrumphing and cajoling each into political fury. The restless camera moves fluidly within each scene, almost flying and showcasing certain scenes before coming back down to earth with a bump.
A review of this film would be remiss if the quite considerable talents of the lead cast weren't mentioned. Kristen Scott Thomas plays Clemmie with a quiet, strong willed determination, despite her being, at times, in the shadow of Oldman. His Churchill is a domineering, theatrical and bombastically belligerent oaf with a cheeky side - other actors may vanish under heavy prosthetics but Oldman's portrayal shines through.
Audio Commentary with Director Joe Wright - A fairly low key discussion from Wright, discussing everything from Gary Oldman, the honour of directing this film, historical and cultural context, the need for a strong female voice and everything in between.
Into Darkest Hour -This featurette is an underwhelming EPK running roughly eight minutes long with short interviews from the main cast detailing how they came to work on the project.
Gary Oldman: Becoming Churchill - A trailer length featurette, the title of which tells it all really. This is a brief look at the transformation of Oldman to Winston Churchill, provided by the Oscar-winning make-up team of Kazuhiro Tsuji, Lucy Sibbick and David Manilowski, and how they achieved the look without losing the actor under mountains of prosthetics.