Tuesday, 12 December 2017

Film Review: "Darkest Hour" (2017).



"A man with the heart of a nation." This is Darkest Hour. This British war drama film directed by Joe Wright, and written by Anthony McCarten. Set within the days of becoming Prime Minister of Great Britain, Winston Churchill must face one of his most turbulent and defining trials: exploring a negotiated peace treaty with Nazi Germany, or standing firm to fight for the ideals, liberty and freedom of a nation. As the unstoppable Nazi forces roll across Western Europe and the threat of invasion is imminent, and with an unprepared public, a skeptical King, and his own party plotting against him, Churchill must withstand his darkest hour, rally a nation, and attempt to change the course of world history.

In February 2015, it was announced that Working Title Films had acquired Darkest Hour, a speculative screenplay and passion project by The Theory of Everything screenwriter Anthony McCarten. In March 2016, it was reported that Joe Wright was in talks to direct the film. In April 2016, Gary Oldman was reported to be in talks to play Churchill. In September 2016, it was announced that Focus Features would release the film in the United States on 24 November 2017, while Ben Mendelsohn, Kristin Scott Thomas, Lily James, and Stephen Dillane joined the cast as King George VI, Clementine Churchill, Elizabeth Layton, and Edward Wood, 3rd Viscount Halifax respectively. In November 2016, principal photography began. For his role as Churchill, Oldman spent over 200 hours having make-up applied, and smoked over 400 cigars, roughly £50 each (more than $20,000 USD), during filming. At the end of filming, he had nicotine poisoning and spent a holiday getting a colonoscopy. The film marks the final screen credits of Benjamin Whitrow (28th September 2017), Robert Hardy (August 3rd, 2017), and John Hurt (25th January 2017), who all died before the film's release. By a sad irony, Hurt was ill with cancer when he was initially set to portray British prime minister Neville Chamberlain, who himself was dying of cancer in 1940. According to Oldman, Hurt was undergoing treatment for being so ill, therefore was unable to attend the read-throughs and never got to film a scene. Ronald Pickup assumed the role of Chamberlain instead, and Hurt died from cancer in January 2017. The movie was still dedicated to Hurt, as it would have been his final film.

The film stars Oldman as Churchill, with Mendelsohn, Thomas, James, Dillane, and Pickup. The cast gave terrific performances, none more so than Oldman himself. Oldman has found the man within the caricature. Only an actor of Oldman's stature could possibly capture Churchill's essence and bring it to the screen. It's a performance of towering proportions that sets a new benchmark for acting. It is impossible not to be disturbed by Oldman's depiction of the legendary British prime minister.

Gary Oldman's performance as Winston Churchill in Darkest Hour is reliably perfect, but it's mired in standard, self-important storytelling. Awards should be coming Oldman's way; yet his brilliance rather overshadows the film itself.

Simon says Darkest Hour receives:



Also, see my review for Pan.

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