Darkest Hour Review – Riveting, Gripping, A Triumph

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Darkest Hour, from Working Title Films and Focus Features, presents the story of an unwavering, newly appointed Prime Minister, Winston Churchill facing Adolph Hitler's Nazi Army that is advancing effortlessly throughout Europe with his sight on the United Kingdom.

Directed by Joe Wright, Darkest Hour stars Gary Oldman, Kristin Scott Thomas, Ben Mendelsohn, Lily James, Stephan Dillane, Samuel West, Jordan Waller, Ronald Pickup, Charley Palmer Rothwell, Hannah Steele, Anna Burnett, Nicholas Jones and Richard Lumsden and was written by Anthony McCarten.

Darkest Hour begins in Parliament, a raucous, rowdy, verbal crowd of lawmakers who routinely shout their opinions with each opposing sides facing each other and the Prime Minister standing in the center addressing the lawmakers.


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On this day Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, played by Ronald Pickup, announcing his belief a surrender to the dominating army of Adolf Hitler's swiftly advancing military would be best to save England and retain peace. When Poland was invaded, a previously signed alliance forced the UK declared war on Germany.

Neville Chamberlain found himself leading the nation through the beginnings of Hitler's attempt for world dominance. He resigned on May 10, 1940 after his opinions were challenged as nation after nation fell to the shocking might and determination of Hitler.

The successor, Winston Churchill, played by Gary Oldman, was expected to a the sacrificial lamb in British politics. The confusion in Parliament at the time, the divide and conquer theory allowed Hitler to continue his one mind, one focus, occupation of the European mainland.

Churchill, as we see early, was someone who expected absolute knowledge and readiness and the ability to handle his gruff and often cantankerous personality. He could be a curmudgeon, and this was wartime, his England, and the lives of the nations sons and daughters were at stake. The heaviness of a decision maker was felt by everyone.

Needless to say, we meet his newest assistant, Elizabeth Layton, played by Lily James, who is briefed and sent to the firing squad, where Churchill, still in bed, having a well ordered breakfast with a champagne spritzer and his trademark cigar, is attempting to send a memo to an allied leader when  we find out, no point the nation has surrendered.

Layton is having a bit of a moment, as Churchill flashes her as he rolls out of bed, the swirl of activity, the shocking cacophony of the daily intimacies of whom all are expecting to be invited by the King to be the most powerful man in the country.

Of course, on this day his hard fast rule of doubled spaced typing has been tossed for single space, dammit weren't you told? To which our Elizabeth burst into tears and leaves. The old man is full of himself and just a rude, bullish, ungrateful, mean man.

As she is leaving she runs into Mrs. Churchill, Clementine, played by Kristen Scott Thomas, who attempts to question her about her husband sudden bad behavior. Elizabeth steps out the door and a telegram arrives. In  that moment she has to make a life decision, knowing what he is, his difficult and at times unreasonable personality, and what this telegram will do, she takes the telegram to the suite where all are listening to the radio describing the unfathomable news: France had fallen and is now occupied by Hitler.

The telegram, an invitation from King George VI, played by Ben Mendelsohn, to form a government in his name.


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Darkest Hour is without question one of the 2017's best films and Gary Oldman's performance raises the bar and will be noted, mentioned and nominated duringt he upcoming awards season.

The film captures the attention from the beginning on many levels. As there has been a resurgence in the public's attention for British and great moments, this wartime leadership of Winston Churchill could birth countless stories and this one, of the infancy of his role as the leader of a free England against the encroaching insidious evil of Hitler and his Nazi SS military, is just the beginning of great moments.

Gary Oldman is Churchill. Oldman ceases to exists as Winston Churchill emerges. No nuances of the actor, and yes, hair and makeup help capture the features of the Prime Minister and yet, the performance is an exceptional, immersive experience.

Darkest Hour is filled with wonderful performances as the approaching storm clouds of war inch closer and the battle for life, liberty and morale of a people hand precariously in the bounds. The filmmakers captured this "never surrender" backbone which the people of the United Kingdom are famously known to possess.

Kristen Scott Thomas, as the lovely Mrs. Churchill who is a shadow in the big life of her husband, is able to convey the truth of the life with the Prime Minister as she is the fixed foot, the source of normalcy, in the relationship that has him working tirelessly to spare his homeland, it's people, his England.  

Ben Mendelsohn, as King George VI, capture his essence. As the King, who was known to have a speech impediment that often caused deep angst, frustration and just a constant source of consternation, was not keen on the bulldog Churchill, who was known to speak his mind freely. Mendelsohn, plays the King with grace; the regality of a King, the concern of a father and the distress, worry and anxiety for his citizens.

There are a host of supporting players, Lily James, the long-suffering secretary of Winston Churchill, who has, like all felt the war's heartache. Soon she is advising the Churchill on what the people need to awaken the spirit to fight that he longs for them to have. Ronald Pickup and Charley Palmer Rothwell as the insurgents.

Darkest Hour is filled with heart, politics and the back story of sons and daughters, lovers and friends who lived, fought and died for freedom.  It is triumphant! Marvelous and an achievement in filmmaking.

Darkest Hour opens everywhere November 17, 2017. See this film! One of 2017's best and expect Gary Oldman to be nominated as awards season rolls around. 

 

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