Gary Oldman is a masterful actor. He has been a consistent performer who can lose himself in a role. He has a history of doing that over the years and now, he is going back in history for his next great role.
Winston Churchill became Prime Minister of England during the darkest time the British was facing during the early days of World War II. He was not the popular choice, but he was the choice that was believed to be able to cross over party lines and unite the country.
In this film, we see how close that came to not being the case.
With opposing forces within his own War Council, Churchill faced constant problems. Former Prime Minister Nevelle Chamberlain (Ronald Pickup) and everybody’s real choice for PM Viscount Halifax (Stephen Dillane) represented the other party in the council and wanted Churchill to negotiate a peace treaty with Hitler. Churchill wanted no part of tat, but felt as if his hand was being forced by events and by the situation.
This was all going on at the same time as 300,000 British troops were being trapped at Dunkirk, only adding to the pressure on Churchill.
Oldman brilliantly shows the progression of the curmudgeon Churchill from nervously awaiting an appointment to facing overwhelming odds. One of the best scenes in the movie had Churchill on a train, discussing what he should do with the people. This really showed the connection that Churchill had with the “normal” people of Britain and why he is such a beloved figure.
The dialogue is wonderfully written and that is vital since Churchill was known for his biting wit and sharp comments. Even the King of England admitted to being “scared” of Churchill. Oldman delivers these lines with a gusto that you expect from him.
While the acting is top notch, this would be another version of a film where the performance elevates the story. The plot itself is not the strongest aspect of Darkest Hour, but with every word, Oldman makes everything better. I would compare this to another World War II movie- The Imitation Game with Benedict Cumberbatch. Cumberbatch brings so much to the role of Alan Turing that he makes the movie better by his presences. Gary Oldman does the very same thing. This could be considered the quintessential Winston Churchill performance ever put to film.
Much more accurate than the other movie today (Greatest Showman), Darkest Hour presents the tale of a singular time in the life of Winston Churchill and it does it with a career performance by a great actor in Gary Oldman. The film may run a little too long, but that scene on the train had me getting goose bumps. I would expect to see Gary Oldman’s name in future Oscar consideration.