Hot Take: A worthy Best Picture nominee that’s a showcase for Gary Oldman who gives arguably the best performance of his life as Winston Churchill.
It would be unfair to call The Post “Oscarbait” but not tag Darkest Hour with the same criticism. Both films rely heavily on themes that have a track record of success with the Academy in garnering Award nominations and a worthy cast. That being said, Darkest Hour is more transcendent than The Post and it’s also a showcase for Gary Oldman, one of the greatest actors of our era who is given a chance to domineer the screen with his larger than life performance as Winston Churchill during the ascension of Churchill to the position of Prime Minister at the height of the German expansion during World War II. It’s basically a 2+ hour highlight reel of Oldman’s ability to command a role from beginning to end and one of his most complete and transformational performances.
Darkest Hour might not have the most original storyline following Churchill’s rise to power replacing Neville Chamberlain as Prime Minister of England during World War II. As Germany advances, it leads to Churchill’s handling of the Dunkirk incident and his planned evacuation of the British troops stranded at Dunkirk with no escape route. (You can see Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk for that side of the story which is also an excellent 2017 film.) Oldman plays Churchill with precision, passion and delivers a characterization that is multi-faceted with incredible depth. Oldman exposes Churchill’s warts and gives them a shine that helps better explain his position of power and influence. Oldman isn’t the only person that delivers here, either. As Churchill’s wife Clementine, Kristin Scott Thomas has great chemistry with Oldman’s Churchill in the few moments they share on screen. There’s also another hidden gem of a performance from Lily James as Churchill’s typist Elizabeth Layton. The rest of the cast gives a steadiness to the film and adds to its credibility.
It’s Oldman you come and stay for, though. As Churchill, he delivers in so many ways. However, the moments he shines the most are when he’s given the opportunity to show off Churchill’s oratory abilities. And while not 100% historically accurate, the poetic license taken by writer Anthony McCarten and director Joe Wright are advantageous to the advancement of the dramatic flair of the film and do not feel as if they aren’t at least a little plausible.
When Best Picture nominations were announced on Tuesday, it was no surprise to see Darkest Hour amongst the nominees. Less surprising was Oldman’s nomination for Best Actor and while the rest of the field is strong, it’s hard to imagine anyone outside of Oldman winning the Award. If you enjoy more scholarly historical tales or just love watching an actor completely annihilate a role, Darkest Hour is a film you should see. I expected to be bored with it but was surprisingly delighted with how completely enthralled with the film I was from start to finish.
Gary Oldman is one of the best actors of our era and he proves why here.
You’ve watched too much History Channel as it is.