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Darkest Hour - 2017

Darkest Hour - 2017

Director(s): Joe Wright

Writer(s): Anthony McCarten

Cinematography by: Bruno Delbonnel

Editor(s): Jina Jay

Cast: Gary Oldman, Kristin Scott Thomas, Lily James, Ben Mendelsohn and Stephen Dillane.  

Synopsis: During the early days of World War II, the fate of Western Europe hangs on the newly-appointed British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, who must decide whether to negotiate with Hitler, or fight on against incredible odds. (IMDB)

Review:

There are very few historical figures of the 1900’s as compelling and enigmatic as Winston Churchill, Prime Minister of Great Britain during the World War II years. In the past ten years he has been portrayed by Albert Finney, Brendan Gleeson, Timothy Spall, Michael Gambon, Brian Cox and Jon Lithgow, just to name a few. This time around, the task of bringing to life one of them most quoted men in history falls on Gary Oldman’s shoulders, and Oldman rose to the challenge.

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Director Joe Wright’s (Atonement and Anna Karenina) last feature length movie was 2015’s heavily misguided and critically panned… Pan, So, when he announced that he was returning to his period piece roots I was excited to see him tackle the dark days of Britain in the face of the Nazi Empire. Wright managed to somehow make a war movie that doesn’t show the horrors of war directly, like this year’s Dunkirk, but gives the audience the same amount of tension and dread at the events unfolding before their eyes. This movie is 99% monologues, speeches and conversations, yet somehow, I walked away from it as if I saw a war epic of the grandest scale and proportion. Wright utilized the close-ups to his advantage making the audience feel as trapped and claustrophobic as the entire British Island felt during that time.

Quick note: my favorite scene came during Churchill’s speech to his countrymen through the radio. Wright lit the room with a red bulb, creating compelling visuals to go along with one of Churchill’s most famous speeches.

Yes, this movie is directed extremely well. Yes, cinematographer Bruno Delbonnel played with the lighting and the placement of their characters to create compelling visuals. Yes, Anthony McCarten wrote a great script jammed packed with heart pounding speeches. But, this movie is going to be remembered and praised because of Gary Oldman’s performances as Churchill.

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It took me barely five minutes into Gary Oldman’s portrayal of Churchill for me to completely understand why he is the frontrunner for the Academy Award for Best Actor. This didn’t feel like an impersonation, rather an embodiment of everything that made Churchill one of the most revered and feared Prime Ministers of the past millennia. Nothing about the way he talked, walked or even smoked his cigars felt calculated or like he was thinking “this is how Churchill would do it”, he simply was him, and I was transfixed by him every second he was on screen. Also I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the make-up department of this movie, as it helped elevate his transformation into his character.

Quick note: every great dancer needs a dancing partner and Kristin Scott Thomas as Clemmie, Oldman’s wife, was both heartwarming and hilarious. She kept Oldman on his toes and challenged him every step of the way, creating a great balance between their characters.

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Darkest Hour is a great period piece wrapped in one of the best character studies of the year thanks to one of the most incredible transformative performances in Oldman’s illustrious career. Despite this having zero to no action scenes, I never felt bored and was filled with tension despite knowing the outcome of Churchill’s efforts. Gary Oldman and his make-up department should and will win Academy Awards this year. Oldman’s performance is why I love movies.

Darkest Hour is currently playing in theaters. Watch it.

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