“Success is not final, failure is not fatal. It is the courage to continue that counts.”
Directed by Joe Wright (Pride and Prejudice, Atonement)
Starring Gary Oldman, Lily James and Kristin Scott Thomas
Make Up (Gary Oldman) by Kazuhiro Tsuji
Academy Awards for Best Actor and Best Make Up and Hair Styling (2018)
This absolutely beautiful film follows the first 10 days of Winston Churchill as prime minster during the second world war. Although not entirely accurate, this film is full of suspense and intrigue, it left me wanting to know more about WWII, and how Churchill did win this war. It shows the death and destruction of war without being too violent or emotionally draining. It asks the audience to view the war intellectually rather than just react to overwhelming brutality. It was well deserving of it’s 4 star rating.
Wright and cinematographer Bruno Delbonnel do an amazing job of displaying Churchill’s and therefore the United Kingdom’s claustrophobia in the War rooms that were built below the streets of London. It is well known that Churchill refused to spend the night there and even through the Blitz was known to go up to his bed in 10 Downing St. The War Rooms were recreated by production designer Sarah Greenwood and I could have sworn they were filmed in the real War Rooms that are now open to the public. The space felt authentic as shots pan between rooms, entering in and out of doors and down skinny hall ways. There are shots of Churchill going up elevators and shots through small windows where the negative space takes up the majority of the screen, and this, along with extremely close cropped shots, continues to feed into the claustrophobia we feel with Churchill. The claustrophobia felt by Churchill is also felt by the United Kingdom. The United Kingdom is trapped by the German army and is refused help from their alies. As their enemy draws closer to the defeat of the British army, the United Kingdom starts to feel the pressure.
The intense feelings of claustrophobia that are felt throughout the film could not have been maintained with Gary Oldman. Oldman’s performance was well deserving of his Academy award, not only does he maintain a mumbling cadence but he expressing amazing depth while wearing an insane silicone piece by Kazuhiro Tsuji. This film leaves you wondering if you even knew what Gary Oldman looks like in the first place! The make up work is so impressive I am left without words to describe it, and Oldman has worked well around it. Unfortunately, though you are left wanting to turn the subtitles on but I implore you, please give it a few minutes, eventually you come to understand the mumble. The film provides us with following introduction to the Churchill character and I think it describes how the audience feels perfectly:
He mumbles so it is almost impossible to catch everything
Throughout the film Churchill has to make some difficult decisions which result in the death of large groups of soldiers, however, these scenes are mirrored with simple scenes such as Churchill feeding the King’s dogs off his own plate and caring for his typist as she struggles with the letters she has to write indicate make us feel empathy towards him. He is also shown to be seeing the death and destruction for himself and we are reminded that he fought in WWI and therefore fully understands the gravity of his decisions. He is not the cartoonish monster that is so often portrayed in the media. The Churchill character grows on Lily James’ character, Elizabeth, as he grows on the audience, she represents how we feel and enables Churchill to explain his actions to audience.
Wright often includes actual WWII footage to remind viewers that these are real events that are being discussed and that Churchill’s decisions did actually have real world consequences. The film sits uncomfortably with the audience, as it asks us to imagine a time when Hitler was known as a dictator but not someone who goes on to commit calculated mass genocide. Someone that United Kingdom was considering a peace treaty with.
The Darkest Hour is a beautifully prepared film and highly worth a couple hours of your night.