I have developed a great respect for the British Parliament, the monarchy, and British history over the course of the last year. After watching Stephen Daldry’s masterful show ‘The Crown’ and Christopher Nolan’s unforgettable experience ‘Dunkirk’, Director Joe Wright’s ‘Darkest Hour’ is like the icing on my cake of British history. In fact, ‘Darkest Hour’ is so close to Nolan’s film in chronology that you could literally start ‘Dunkirk’ right after this movie ends and it would be like flipping the page of a book. I may do that some time.
The striking difference is that Nolan’s masterpiece was nearly a silent film about the struggle of soldiers in every facet of the Dunkirk siege. ‘Darkest Hour’ is a political drama about the decision making that had to be made in order to make sure that those soldiers at Dunkirk could be saved and whether the British Parliament would have surrendered to Hitler if it weren’t for the timely appointment of Winston Churchill as Prime Minister. I’ll leave historians to argue that point, but as a piece of important political and historical theater, ‘Darkest Hour’ is superb.
Dario Marianelli’s score is intense and swooping when it needs to be. Bruno Delbonnel’s lighting perfectly illuminates it’s dark rooms with the shadows that were hanging over Churchill’s head. Anthony McCarten’s dialogue is whip smart and drives the story along. However, it’s Gary Oldman’s undeniably brilliant performance as Churchill that captivates the audience member in such a way that looking away from the screen would seem an injustice. There is a lot of monologuing to be done in this film and Oldman delivers it with such fervor that you might find yourself wishing for a time when our leaders were more eloquent (like a year ago).
The story opens with the reluctant appointment of Churchill to Prime Minister and the bickering of political parties. The Conservative party leaders may have hated Churchill, but he was the only person in their party that could muster the support of the minority and that was mighty important in the early 1940’s. The whole struggle of this film is whether to follow the parties push for peace talks with Hitler or Churchill’s feelings of fighting the Germans until the very last man. It may seem ludicrous to us that anyone would have considered peace with Hitler, but we can’t imagine having a dictator a few hundred miles away with his mobilized army plowing through our soldiers.
In the movies best scene, Churchill finds himself on a subway train with the British people and their reaction to Churchill’s inquiries about the war shape the rest of the movie and possibly the course of history. While many might balk at the events that are displayed here and how accurate they are, it is undeniable that Churchill made the decisions he made and how those decisions did help to shape history. So, watching them dramatized with such stellar dialogue in the mouth of one of the world’s greatest performers is quite a show. Don’t miss it!