Linda Movie Review: DARKEST HOUR
DARKEST HOUR Review By Linda Ruiz
I asked Joe Wright, the director of Darkest Hour, if Gary Oldman was living on another planet and wasn’t available which other actor would you have chosen. He looked me straight in the eye and responded succinctly ” I would not have made this film.”I totally agree with that statement. Gary Oldman is the only actor capable of embodying Winston Churchill. Kazuhiro Tsuji, came out of retirement as a special effects makeup artist, to magnificently transform Gary Oldman. This trifecta of celestial talent brings to life the screenplay of Anthony McCarten.
Darkest Hour opens when Neville Chamberlain (Ronald Pickup),is forced to step down as Prime Minister, and Winston Churchill is chosen as his replacement. It is the early days of World War II and Hitler has already invaded Poland and is now making his way into France. England is literally trapped. This claustrophobic feeling of impending doom and hopelessness is what Churchill has to navigate his country through. His political party thought to manipulate him into peace talks brokered by Mussolini. The Battle of Gallipoli during World War I, and it’s devastating consequences are always held over Churchill’s head by Lord Halifax (Stephen Dillane), Foreign Secretary and close personal friend of King George VI (Ben Mendelsohn) and proponent of these peace talks.
The War Cabinet is located in underground tunnels. Churchill begins and ends his day in this dark dreary claustrophobic environment and Joe Wright takes us there with him. Much of the story unfolds here as Churchill is trying to convince the War Cabinet that England has to fight Hitler. There is no negotiating with a madman, and he had predicted the rise of Hitler years earlier. Churchill is a man of heart and words. It weighs very heavy on him, that again the lives of thousands of soldiers are his responsibility. Oldman makes us feel his heartache, not only through his arguments with the War Cabinet, but through his eyes. You see the guilt, he carries for the failure of Gallipoli. He is determined not to see history repeat itself because this time it will be the end of England.
As Churchill begins another day, his vehicle is stuck in traffic. Suddenly he bolts from the car and heads to the London tube. He wants to speak to the people and this is the only way he will be able to accomplish that. The people want him to fight. When he gets to Parliament, this is his mindset and he has found the words to convince them to back him on this decision. This is a costly decision because the soldiers that have been trapped in Calais,would not be rescued. Operation Dynamo took precedence, it was the rescue of the troops at Dunkirk.
King George VI, was not pleased with this decision because he had been convinced by Lord Halifax that peace was the only way to keep England safe. The King pays an unexpected visit to Churchill at his home. It is a pivotal scene, where Ben Mendelsohn, masterfully portrays an indecisive king,one who had a serious speech impediment, is doubting his own ability and doesn’t know whether to leave or stay.
This intimate conversation between two men who hold the fate of England in their hands, come to terms with what is at stake and form an alliance. It is this alliance forged with heart and words that save England. This is the movie that will sweep the Oscars this year.
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