Widely regarded as one of the most significant figures of modern history (and a personal favorite of mine, next to Theodore Roosevelt), Winston Churchill maintains a positive reputation among historians for successfully leading his country through the Second World War. This respect and admiration was not an immediate sentiment toward Churchill, as his own political party and War Cabinet considered him too impulsive to be an effective leader.
With the collapse of Europe imminent and Hitler practically on his doorstep, Churchill made the difficult and conflicting decision as prime minister for Britain to stand their ground against German tyranny. With few allied nations and his soldiers trapped on the beaches of Belgium, Darkest Hour documents the internal and external struggles of Churchill to unify the nation of Britain. Chock-full of brilliant performances and strong, emotional dialogue, Darkest Hour delivers audiences a sincere film about one of Britain’s finest.
The most powerful aspect of Darkest Hour is of course Gary Oldman’s immersive portrayal of Winston Churchill, which takes this rather standard historical drama and makes it feel like so much more. Oldman captures the mannerisms and quirks of Churchill beautifully, especially the slurred and garbled speech that he was famous for. And the fantastic use of prosthetics had me astounded at how much Oldman resembled Churchill.
Darkest Hour moves along at a fairly steady and interesting pace, but does have its slow and meandering moments too. In an attempt to dampen the more boring historical facets the writers fill in the gaps with Hollywood schmaltz. While this is typical of historical dramas, Darkest Hour had a notably poor blending of facts vs. fiction.
The balance between the two was relatively impressive, in that the filmmakers got more right than they did wrong. However, the events that were fabricated are distinctly noticeable and make the film feel to sentimental for its own good.
Those with a penchant for history (and film) will surely appreciate the stunning portrayal of Churchill and the technicalities of the plot, despite the obviously romanticized undertone.
The Verdict: B+