Go for Gary Oldman: Review of Darkest Hour by Rashid Irani
This is a stirring retelling of Churchill’s fight to protect Britain, and Europe, from Hitler’s army. One failing: it focuses only on the prime minister’s strengths.
Thespian Gary Oldman is simply astonishing as Winston Churchill in this stirring if somewhat overlong biopic.
Aided beyond measure by the wizardry of Japanese makeup artist Kazuhiro Tsuji, Oldman transforms himself into the portly cigar-chomping prime minister.
The film covers four weeks during Churchill’s embattled first tenure as British prime minister. Director Joe Wright (Pride & Prejudice; Atonement) captures both the spirit and the resolve of the politician s determined to safeguard Britain’s independence and save Europe from Hitler’s advancing army. Incidentally, the film also serves as a sort of prelude to the recently released Dunkirk.
The script benefits greatly from Churchill’s well-documented wit — asked by King George VI how he could drink during the day, he tersely replied, ‘Practice’— and eloquent oratory.
One flaw in the film is that it shows none of Churchill’s. This was a man wracked by doubt; one whose track record was certainly not unblemished. Reflecting some of the flaws in the protagonist would have strengthened the film.
The director even concocts a fictionalised encounter on the London underground between the prime minister and a handful of common folk. The subsequent eureka moment is facile.
The ever-reliable Kristin Scott Thomas is the standout among the supporting cast, as Churchill’s stoic wife.
If only for Gary Oldman’s Oscar-calibre performance, and hers, Darkest Hour merits a trip to the multiplex.