Darkest Hour is the much anticipated biopic on Churchill’s first term as Prime Minister, set during 1940 and as the name would suggest the Darkest Hour for both him and the UK.
It comes not long on the heels of Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk and while they are two very different films, there is some crossover in that DH at times does focus on Operation Dynamo.
They are not films to compare but when it comes to laying out the situation, comparisons can’t help but be drawn as DH is filled with exposition on the status of the War, Dynamo and Dunkirk. But Dunkirk shows us this and doesn’t stop to explain, something that DH does repeatedly even with minor details.
Though this is likely done to enhance our understanding of the impossible position that Churchill was in as the Prime Minister, so we can see the pressure that had been laid upon his shoulders.
As one of the key themes of the film is about whether it is right to tell the people the truth or to continue to give them hope by lying in broadcasts through Churchill’s speeches.
This struggle is portrayed well and we can see how it weighed on Churchill, his mind and those around him. It becomes more important than the 300,000 British soldiers or the total loss of Europe that in unfolding.
Yet this almost minor and secondary representation of these major events fits in well as we see Churchill refusal to believe that France was losing, that tanks were Germany’s main invasion force and that the tide couldn’t be turned.
Oldman gives, what should be, an award winning performance as Churchill truly showing how the man struggled not only with the politics of staying in power but the war that faces him.
Yet the performance is the strongest aspect of the film as the film can go from nail bitingly tense scenes to blood curdling scenes that ruin the tone of the film.
A lot of the film seems to be based on filling the spectator in on the historic events, persons or content while it plods from one famous Churchill speech to another. This results in a fairly large emotional detachment as it becomes hard to invest in the events and the narrative.
This is further compounded by a sequence that has a theoretical basic in fact but is acknowledged as a fiction, which for me enhanced the film albeit by ruining the tone that had been established.
To give my personal opinion would be that it is a film worth seeing, if only for Oldman’s performance, and you will come out having enjoyed it. But if you are expecting to come out shaking or in awe as you would have from Dunkirk, then I would suggest you lower your expectations.