MPAA Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 2hr 05min
During the early days of World War II, the fate of Western Europe hangs on the newly-appointed British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, who must decide whether to negotiate with Adolf Hitler, or fight on against incredible odds.
Darkest Hour is the story of Winston Churchill’s “never surrender” speech and the dire Second World War circumstances that prompted it.
It’s the scene midway through where Kristin Scott Thomas’ Clemmie Churchill, a figure of grace and resolve in a maelstrom of political and military tensions, consoles her husband Winston, Britain’s prime minister.
“You are strong because you are imperfect,” she tells him.
Churchill’s many imperfections, and his words both wise and not, are very much the focus of the artful screenplay by Anthony McCarten (The Theory of Everything).
Not for the first time is the “British Bulldog” depicted as a man of extreme temper and excessive habits, the latter including a fondness for alcohol and tobacco that worries all who know him.
Yet Oldman brings a wicked wit and compassionate heart to the role, one for which he seems almost superhumanly suited for — and that’s really saying something, consider how many great actors have played Churchill.
True to history and instinct, Oldman fully convinces as a flawed man who is perfectly capable of focus and good judgment in times of crisis.
His secret weapon is his mastery of the English language, and theatrical manner of speaking, which allows him to reach across the radio airwaves to stir the masses in ways that few politicians then or now could.
The non-verbal aspects of Darkest Hour also impress. Bruno Delbonnel’s fluid cinematography, in concert with Dario Marianelli’s dynamic score, sculpts light and shade to make art out of even the most mundane scenes of backrooms and bedrooms.
Members of the stellar supporting cast speak volumes through their facial expressions: witness the withering disapproval of uptight king George VI (Ben Mendelsohn) and Churchill’s conspiring rivals Neville Chamberlain (Ronald Pickup) and viscount Halifax (Stephen Dillane); and the love/hate reactions of Clemmie and secretary Elizabeth Layton (Lily James) to Churchill’s impatient demands.
But when the time comes for Oldman to deliver Churchill’s immortal “never surrender” speech to Parliament, all eyes and ears are upon him, as they should rightfully be.