One of my personal favorites, British Actor Gary Oldman (JFK, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, and The Professional & Batman - The Dark Knight) takes on the role of a life time as one of the world’s most iconic real life leaders in the form of his fellow countryman Prime Minister Winston Churchill in the early days of World War II with the rising Fascist German Army and Adolph Hitler.
An inspiring true story of the four weeks of May in 1940, we soon discover all of Europe is on the precipice of falling under the control and dominance of Nazi Germany with the fall of France very imminent. It is compounded by the fact that Britain faces its “darkest hour” as well with the threat of their “Island nation” being invaded from the German military juggernaut.
As the seemingly unstoppable Nazi forces advance, the newly formed British government of Prime Minister Winston Churchill (who hardly anyone in Parliament likes) is dealing with the early crisis of 300K plus of his countryman's British army and military allies collectively trapped and cornered on the French beaches of Dunkirk. Churchill realizes the fate of not only his country but all of Western Europe hangs on the balance of his leadership. But his leadership is a daily struggle as he dominated and surrounded by men who collectively in the Parliament and cabinet find him disagreeable, petulant and ill prepared to be their leader. They relentlessly pressure him day after day to agree to a peace treaty offering from Adolph Hitler to avoid the disaster of Britain being destroyed in a war they believe they cannot win.
But it is the singular spotlight of his sole leadership to fight at all cost against a rising evil in the world and to prevent the totally incomprehensible thought of his country ever losing their national identity as a sovereign nation “under the banner of a swastika flying over Buckingham Palace”.
Refusing to cave under to his bitter professional rivals demands of negotiating with Hitler to save the British people from a terrible cost of life, Churchill chooses instead the very long extraordinary odds of confronting Germany. First by implementing a rescue strategy called "Operation Dynamo" that virtually rescued the entire British army from the shores of Dunkirk with a civilian naval armada and then shortly there after rallying his nation in his speech before the Parliament on what his policy would be going forward........... “You all ask, what is our nation’s policy? I will say it is to wage war, by sea, land, and air, with all our might and with all the strength that God can give us; to wage war against a monstrous tyranny never surpassed in the dark, lamentable catalogue of human crime. That is our policy”.
REVIEW: Initially we see the film in the form of an intimate examination of the ordinary man named Churchill filled with a combination of his smart British wit, compassion and charm along with a unique perspective of what he was like as a dutiful husband. But soon after this framing of his personality has passed we see minute by minute both the film “Darkest Hour” and the actor Gary Oldman grow into a perfectly executed mutual crescendo as one of the best films for 2017.
Running about 2 hours, “Darkest Hour” essentially is a microscopic portrait of what leadership likes when seemingly dire events require someone, just one someone, to take the reigns of people's hearts, minds and human will to lead them. That one special someone by being their most morally courageous to lead them. And it is Oldman's performance we see these qualities in his Churchill; that special someone in both intricate and broad strokes with flawless acting from beginning to end.
While Oldman is in almost 95% of the film scenes and has about 80% of the lines utter in the film, the film still works as a very well-rounded balance story of other historical characters all the while showcasing one of the finest acting performances in the way of Oldman interpretation you will see this year or any other year. Gary Oldman is just phenomenal and keeps the whole historical story from ever collapsing under the weight of already familiar documented account of events during those perilous month of May in 1940. Even with knowing how things turned out this story and film always felt fresh, compelling. very consequential every step of the way.
Look I could say a lot more in the way of details about the film being superbly directed by Joe Wright along with a musical score that was both appropriate and timely in its underscoring of key moments in the film, but should you see it you will find all of this out for yourself.
Ultimately, Darkest Hour’ is one of the 10 best films you will see all year. If you are a history buff I highly recommend renting this years “Dunkirk” and the former Best Picture winner (one of my favorites of all time) “The Kings Speech” before or after "Darkest Hour". Both previously released films are situationally linked to the same historical time frame in UK World War 2 history, with both films working very well as companion and supportive pieces to the more intricate strategic events that occurred in “Darkest Hour”.
So, now the Academy of Arts and Science in Los Angeles will have to go through the perfunctory formality of nominating Gary Oldman in late January 2018 for Best Actor and then the additional perfunctory formality of making him travel all the way across the Atlantic all dressed up in his black tuxedo and tie just to accept his golden statue Oscar on live TV. He will then in turn take the time to thank all those who helped him in this great performance as well as those who were instrumental in his successful long career. Instead I would like to suggest the following idea to the Academy........., “Hey Academy why don't you just Federal Express Gary Oldman’s his Oscar today to some London store………….Save him the damn time and money on flying and air fare just to pick his well deserved trophy here in the states" (just kidding - he will win though - a 100% lock).
Please take the time to see “Darkest Hour”, I highly recommend this excellent film, but more for Gary Oldman's work who is “Brando-esque” as Prime Minister Winston Churchill (my highest form of praise for a male actor’s work). And also I would like to recommend one other final suggestion to Gary Oldman as well,……….. “Hey Gary, you might want to keep that Tux pressed and handy anyway, knighthood from the Queen is on its way………..and you have to show up for that”.