Darkest Hour

As the Nazi’s sweep through Europe at the beginning of World War II the British face the difficult issue of replacing their Prime Minister. The people and members of Parliament have become disenchanted with Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain (Ronald Pickup). They feel his lack of action lead to the rise of Hitler and the Nazis. He agrees to step down and has to name a replacement. While he would prefer to have his protégé, Foreign Secretary Viscount Halifax (Stephen Dillane), there is only one member of his party that all of Parliament will accept, Winston Churchill (Gary Oldman). King George VI (Ben Mendelsohn) is also opposed to the brash and opinionated Churchill. Bowing to the will of the opposition Churchill the King agrees to appoint him the next Prime Minister. Although he is thrilled at finally achieving his lifelong dream he has no delusions that he is facing extremely difficult times ahead. The Nazis are tearing through Europe. They have already taken Belgium and Holland they now are invading France. The Nazis have also managed to surround nearly the entire British ground force on the French beaches with no way home. Not only does he have to worry about foreign foes but also his numerous political enemies in his own party. Many oppose his brash and unpredictable nature, while others think of him as heavy drinker that is no more than an exceptional orator with little capacity to make hard decisions. He must overcome all of this to protect the English people and prepare them for the tough days ahead.

Winston Churchill is a very well know historically figure. He was known for his powerful speeches and bigger than life personality. This film takes a look at the early days of him being Prime Minister, during some of the most volatile days in the history of Europe. Not only does the story delve into the politics and struggles of Churchill to put forth his agenda in a hostile climate but also shows him at his most vulnerable. One example is after delivering his first radio address to the nation he walks home alone and to talk with and be reassured by his wife, Clementine Churchill (Kristin Scott Thomas), that his speech was good and people could hear him.

Gary Oldman is spectacular in his role as Chruchill. From the iconic speeches to the light moments with his family and personal secretary, Elizabeth Layton (Lily James), he puts forth a great performance. The supporting cast is great as well, highlighted by Mendelsohn, Scott Thomas and James. The flow of the film really worked, under direction of Joe Wright (Atonement, The Soloist, and Pan). The two hour and five minute run time felt shorter and the movie really moved along. There were some points that they showed some battle scenes, after all it is a World War II era film, which did feel like afterthoughts and didn’t really add anything to the movie. The tension of the moment was well done even without these scenes. Besides those scenes the movie was shot well and added to the overall feel of the movie.

This film will appeal to those who are fans of history, the World War II era specifically, and historical figures. It also is powerful and heartfelt. Really the performances of the cast are what really stuck with me and will be the reason that I watch it again.


4 out of 5