It’s May 1940, and Nazi Germany has occupied Czechoslovakia, Poland, Denmark and Norway. Now it’s on the verge of taking over Belgium and France. Britain is next. Several members of the House of Commons declare their lack confidence in British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain’s leadership, so he resigns. The House of Commons must now select a new leader to perform a single pressing task — see the country through a possible Nazi invasion. This is truly Britain’s darkest hour.
Director Joe Wright’s “Darkest Hour” chronicles Great Britain during World War II as Winston Churchill is chosen to lead the United Kingdom through its most difficult crisis. This decision is made despite reservations by his own political party, the Conservative Party. His colleagues dislike his brashness and, most importantly, his refusal to consider peace with Adolf Hitler. Churchill is absolutely certain that the U.K. cannot appease the Nazis, partly due to principle and partly because the Germans — far more powerful than the U.K. — would never strike fair terms. As a result of his stance, he is forced to fight two separate wars — one against the Nazis and one against other members of his party. However, he is nothing if not a fighter, and he approaches both conflicts with his trademark certainty. His understanding of the enemy and surety in making decisions are the most crucial factors in the Britain’s survival during World War II.
Gary Oldman is fantastic as Churchill, bringing the statesman to life by portraying his irreverence, wit, confidence and ability to take charge. Though extensive makeup obscures Oldman’s appearance and completely transforms him into Churchill, “Darkest Hour” is the veteran actor’s time to shine. While the film contains many great performances, Oldman is its driving force. He entertains with numerous jokes, but his performance during moments of tension is marked with the sobriety necessary to show just how dire the U.K.’s situation truly was.
Joe Wright’s wonderful direction complements Oldman’s performance at every turn. In the beginning of the film, Wright shows a nervous but calm Britain. As the film progresses, the tension rises and comes to the forefront. Characters appear more worried, the nights are more overcast and the Nazi bombing of British troop positions in France escalates.
Churchill enthusiasts are bound to enjoy “Darkest Hour” for its positive and engaging portrayal of the wartime Prime Minister. Other cinemagoers will be equally impressed by Oldman’s spectacular performance in this intense drama about extraordinarily tough decisions.
“Darkest Hour” opened in New York theaters on Wednesday, Nov. 22.
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