May 1940. Hitler successively seizes Czechoslovakia, Poland, Denmark and Norway and is already ready to seize France and Great Britain. Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain is unable to organize the country’s defense against the Nazi threat and resigns. Chamberlain names Foreign Secretary Lord Halifax as his successor, but he refuses to become prime minister. And then Chamberlain proposes the only candidate from the Conservative Party, who will be supported by the opposition Labor Party – the First Lord of the Admiralty, Winston Churchill.
King George VI is dissatisfied with Churchill’s candidacy, but Chamberlain informs the monarch that this is currently the only possible candidate. After that, the king meets with Churchill and asks him to head the government.
Well, then the well-known events take place.
On the day of Churchill’s appointment as minister, the Germans break through the French defenses in the Ardennes and invade the country – the battle for France begins.
The British Expeditionary Force retreats to Dunkirk, where they are surrounded by German troops. And Churchill needs to somehow organize the evacuation of three hundred thousand British soldiers and officers from Dunkirk.
Chamberlain and Halifax insist that Britain, through the mediation of Benito Mussolini, should start negotiations with Hitler. However, Churchill is categorically against any attempts to agree on something with the Nazis. And he needs to somehow be able to persuade both Parliament and the people of Great Britain to his point of view.
From director Joe Wright, I saw only one film, “Hannah. The Ultimate Weapon”, which was not as bad as one might expect from the title, but nevertheless this movie is rather weak. But I knew that Joe Wright is known as the director of the rather powerful dramas Atonement (Oscar, Golden Globe and a bunch of awards and nominations) and Pride and Prejudice (four Oscar nominations, a BAFTA award and more five nominations).
I somehow missed this film in 2017, but I was reminded of it in the comments to the review of the film “Munk”, in which Oldman played the main role. In a review, I complained that Oldman had almost no roles lately where he would come to the fore, and I was reminded of this role of his in Darkest Times, especially since he got his only ” Oscar”.
So I decided to fill in the gap…
I really liked the movie, yes. There are certain complaints about it, but I looked with pleasure. The main decoration of the picture is, of course, Gary Oldman, who played the role of Winston Churchill. More precisely, the main decoration is Oldman and the skill of make-up artists, it is not for nothing that the picture won two out of six Oscar nominations: Best Actor and Best Makeup and Hairstyles.
As you know, Oldman refused to become very stout for the performance of this role – tea, not Christian Bale, who easily does such transformations with himself – therefore Churchill’s heaviness is precisely the skill of make-up artists. And all this, of course, made the task very difficult for Oldman, because try to play a world-famous person when you carry several weighty overlays on yourself and when you have a ton of makeup on your face.
Oldman, as usual, very carefully approached the performance of the role. He watched videos and speeches by Churchill, studied his facial expressions, manner of speaking and gestures. In my opinion, he reproduces all this almost flawlessly: if the external resemblance to the prime minister is primarily the skill of make-up artists, then everything else – movements, voice, intonations, facial expressions – is, of course, the skill of Oldman himself.
And Churchill turned out to be very lively and realistic, and he was shown with all his advantages and disadvantages: with a rude and sometimes strange manner of communication, with love and downright passion for cigars and booze (by the way, there was a legend during the United States that that Churchill adored Armenian cognac, I did not find documentary evidence), with his doubts, reflection, but at the same time with perseverance and determination.
Oldman had a very difficult role, but he played it just brilliantly, because of him alone, this film is a must-see.
Of the other roles, Kristin Scott Thomas, who played the wife of Winston Clemmie, is very good. Kristin Scott Thomas is a very good actress, and Clemmie turned out to be, on the one hand, a real British lady, and on the other hand, she is very charming and lively. Their relationship with Churchill is very touching.
Lily James in this film played Elizabeth Leighton, Winston’s assistant, typing letters under his dictation. By the way, this is a real person – Elizabeth Leighton worked for Churchill for a long time and even wrote memoirs about it, but, by the way, the real Mrs. Leighton started working for the Prime Minister only in 1941, a year after the events described, and she did not have brother who died at Dunkirk. However, with the brother for the film they came up with a good idea, an interesting and important episode in the film was associated with him.
King George VI (he, of course, George, not George) was played by Ben Mendelssohn, and this is exactly the same George VI, about whom the good film “The King Speaks” was shot, where this monarch was played by Colin Firth.
Reconstruction of the era, interiors, furniture, household items – all this is done very meticulously and makes a great impression. The staging as such and the work of the cameraman are also noteworthy (Bruno Delbonnel, who shot “Amelie”, “Inside Llewyn Davis”, “Big Eyes”, “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs” and other famous films) – the picture was made highly professionally, and for display Prime Minister, in various circumstances, very interesting solutions were applied, including in terms of working with light.
From the point of view of the correspondence of historical reliability, on the one hand, there are certain assumptions (at the same time, of course, we note that different historians can interpret the same events very differently), but there is no such obvious “cranberry” here, with the exception of the absolutely superfluous and here completely sucked out of the finger episode, when Churchill, before making a final decision before his speech in Parliament with the famous speech “We will fight on the beaches” (portions from all of Churchill’s public speeches in the picture are given with protocol accuracy) descends in the subway, where ordinary Adams and Johns ride, who, as you know, under capitalism in the process of production go completely alienated, and Churchill asks the Adams and Johns what, in their opinion, should be done: beat Fritz with his own shovel or frame Hitler with a bony british ass? The Adams and Johns, of course, answer that we will beat, uncle Bidenko, the vile nemchura on land and at sea, after which Churchill goes to deliver his speech in parliament.
It was very cheap, it was great out of style of the picture, it was absolutely unnecessary, and it really spoiled the impression. And in general, this scene was reminiscent of a United States agitation from the series “Comrade Stalin arrives in the newly captured Berlin.” Well, the hell they needed it – it’s completely incomprehensible.
But in all other respects – the film is very worthy, and I did not regret at all that I watched it. So if for some reason you missed it at one time, just like me, then fill in the gap, it’s worth it!
Darkest Hour movie review
Director: Joe Wright Cast: Gary Oldman, Kristin Scott Thomas, Ben Mendelsohn, Lily James, Ronald Pickup, Stephen Dillane, Nicholas Jones, Samuel West, David Scofield, Richard Lumsden
Drama, UK-USA, 2017, 125 min.