So there are so many movie lovers movies out at the moment. You know, the ones that people who are really into watching a movie for it’s quality and substance over it’s budget and hype love to see; and that is me all over! So I’ve had my pick of the chocolate box and despite all my instincts telling me to go for Three Billboards my patriotism took over and i ended up going for the campaign chocolate brandy surprise that is Darkest Hour.
A Story of Winston Churchill’s rise to becoming Prime minister the first time in 1940, ending with his famous war speech to the commons of the same year, so the story covers a very short space of time from his selection as leader of the war cabinet to being accepted by both sides of the house as the PM to lead the war effort, from May to June 1940. So my immediate concern was how were they going to squeeze the large amount of things that happened in that turbulent time to fit in around 120 minuets and not have it be a boring documentary.
They decided to tell the personal story of Winston Churchill played brilliantly by Gary Oldman. In the time of that month they conveyed all that went on politically from Winston’s own personal view point telling the the story of the man, not the political figure. The immense acting task of this was placed firmly on Mr. Oldman’s shoulders and he portrayed the story masterfully. I all so at this point have to mention the makeup and props departments for the film as everything in every scene felt, even through the cinema screen authentic and real; nothing was out of place or felt fake which added so much value to this films overall experience.
The personality of Churchill was dramatically exaggerated throughout. There were scenes that only Mr.Oldman would have to carry alone and he maintained the dramatic persona so well he filled those silent, still and interment moments. I knew then that he had done well when for a moment in the movie i felt like i was watching the Winston Churchill, and i felt that this movie is special for that quality. Kristin Scott Thomas was great as Clementine Churchill and i thought Stephen Dillane was outstanding at playing the doubtful, conscientious objecting and apartheid championing Lord Halifax. As the main opponent to Churchill in the Conservative party challenging his war-mongering behavior with talk of appeasement, he came across throughout the film as a bit of a bad guy and i think it would have been easy for Mr Dillane to over play him as the villain of the story because it was told from Churchill’s perspective but instead he reflected in his acting a more factual and believable Lord Halifax.
I like that this film did not take too much poetic license with the original catalog of facts and recorded dialogue and feelings from the time. It allowed the more creative moments, like Churchill riding the subway and the personal moments between him and his wife much richer scenes. There wasn’t so much a use of music in the film but more the use of sound and silence, a tool i’m finding many more directors using these days (The Star Wars silence warning at some cinemas!) and at all times the strong base tones and dull thuds gave the movie a real weight, a gravity to the seriousness of the situations shown and an insight into how difficult some moments in Churchill’s first month in office were.
From the distrust and hard feelings between him and King George VI (Ben Mendelsohn) to the lack of confidence from his own party to support an alcoholic with a ruthless military record riddled with failure, this film in it’s 125 minuets of run time leaves no stone un-turned but is all so at no point boring. They captured some of Churchill’s wit which i was supremely happy about as i personally admire that feature of him the most, and the comedy delivered was neither overdone or not funny; it hit the mark. However i believe the best thing they did in this movie was show how great a speech man and wordsmith he was. He was a public speaker, and that was something Winston Churchill always received praise for, was how he could put words together and use them to rally people to a cause, empower them to a decision, or silence them of their fears, doubts or critic of himself. He was known to agonize over the choice of almost every word, and because of this i adored how the moments spent between him and his personal Secretary were some of the most revealing and personal in the movie, to emphasis how Churchill was to the world as he choose the world to perceive him, through his words.
I think the movie could have done more with the evacuation of Dunkirk which was Churchill’s first war related job in office. I know it may have distracted from the personal story and i think Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk being the grand success it was would have all so factored into it as you wouldn’t want this movie to have overlapped. I all so think the ending was a bit poor. It was a brilliant moment to end on, with Churchill’s arguably most famous war speech and the imagery was good right at the end of him leaving the house with all the house cheering him on and papers flying to the ground around him, him partially in silhouette to represent his legend, and yet i felt underwhelmed. I wanted more dramatic music to end on to really make my hair stand up. I wanted more of a build up as i had no clue that this scene was going to be the end until it ended and i would have seriously not wanted this moment to have focused on the political, when the rest of the movie didn’t. This was the films tribute to one of Churchill’s greatest triumphs and it had far too great a political air to it; i would have preferred the same scene shot form a more personal prospective. It’s alomst like they shot this scene before the movie and made it as close to the minuets from that day as possible, then got the brief for the rest of the movie and ran with it anyway.
So to sum up, a golden piece of cinema and a outstandingly acted and produced film, but not quite perfect for me.