Darkest Hour Movie Review
The chewiest of scenery is the British scenery in Darkest Hour, in which Gary Oldman flexes his jaw muscles, dons a fat suit and proceeds to chew the crap out of those around him, turning in an immersive, award-worthy performance as everyone’s favorite curmudgeon, Winston Churchill.
With Dunkirk mesmerizing audiences earlier this year with minimal dialogue and action throughout, Darkest Hour has director Joe Wright hopping across the pond to depict the rise of Churchill and the decision making that went into the evacuation of 300,000 troops. The drama serves as a good companion piece to show what went on behind the scenes, even if the movie is Wright’s stodgiest film to date.
Wright, who burst onto the scene a decade ago with the excellent Keira Knightley version of Pride & Prejudice and Atonement, has been slapped around in recent years with creative misfires Anna Karenina and Pan. Darkest Hour seems like a conservative response to those movies, which had Wright going all-in on visuals and filmmaking ambition at the expense of competent storytelling.
The result: a solid if somewhat safe drama that is primarily a showcase for Oldman - and a generally interesting history lesson as well.
Darkest Hour is well made, and Oldman makes the most of his opportunity. He’s always been an immersive actor - when you look at the various roles he’s taken on over his storied careers, he rarely looks or acts the same movie to movie - and thanks to both his performance and some quality makeup work you entirely forget Oldman is the star of the show. Oldman is at his very best, and the only thing that might keep from an Oscar is that his performance may be too on the nose for some voters. As good as he is, you could certainly make the argument that there have been more emotionally engaging turns this year.
Darkest Hour boasts a memorable performance by Gary Oldman. It’s entertaining, especially for a historic biopic. While it may not be Wright’s most groundbreaking or ambitious effort, it’s a worthwhile exploration of a critical point in history.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.