Gary Oldman is Winston Churchill in what would be the most thought-provoking movie of the year. Directed by Joe Wright (‘Pan’), ‘Darkest Hour’ is not just the portrayal of Churchill during his run as prime minister, but also a look at the controversy surrounding his election (and last-minute replacement for Neville Chamberlain). It takes place during the Nazi regime and even documents what sounds like real-life sound bytes of calls between Churchill and President Franklin Delanor Roosevelt, and footage of Nazi marches. To its core, ‘Darkest Hour’ also feels like a connection to another Best Picture nominee; Christopher Nolan’s ‘Dunkirk’, since it is also a retelling of the decision to bring home the 300,000 men trapped on the sandy beaches.
Though, like most movies based around a real-life person (and actual events), ‘Darkest Hour’ is not the most accurate retelling of Churchill’s life. It is, however, a witty look at the events leading up to his famous “We shall fight on the beaches” speech, which took place on 4 June 1940. Churchill is a man well-known for his wit as well as his controversial nature; sporting a cigar whenever the chance, and bickering with his wife, Clementine (Kristin Scott Thomas), as well as scolding his secretary, Elizabeth Layton (Lily James) for mispronouncing his intended words as she writes down his speeches (Churchill was barely understandable). Besides the point, Churchill was a leader, and whether the film retains its accuracy, or even lies a few for dramatic purposes, ‘Darkest Hour’ shows how tough-mannered this British prime minister could be during his run.
Oldman (known for his roles as Sirius Black in the ‘Harry Potter’ franchise, Count Dracula in ‘Bram Stoker’s Dracula’, or Commissioner James Gordon in Nolan’s ‘Dark Knight’ trilogy) is given yet another transformative performance. The excessive makeup put on his face, as well as the adoptive traits and manners make him unnoticeable.