Gary Oldman’s performance as Winston Churchill is a bright light in “Darkest Hour” — a movie that in other respects only retreads familiar ground.
“Darkest Hour” feels like a spin-off of last summer’s “Dunkirk,” providing another glimpse into the turbulent moments at the beginning of World War II, this time through the eyes of Churchill.
The film follows Churchill’s rise to prime minister, his war cabinet meetings and home life with his wife. The stakes are raised when the British are held up in Dunkirk, testing Churchill and the nation. Defeat would mean the end of British resistance to Hitler, and a peace agreement with the Germans would mean surrendering to tyranny.
What ensues is Churchill’s emotional struggle between his own conscience to never give in to Hitler, and the desire of those in his war cabinet and party for so-called peace.
It takes an accomplished actor to provide audiences with the authenticity of those feelings. It’s a good thing Oldman was hired for the job. Whether Churchill is angry, laughing, confused, concerned, tired or telling his wife how much he loves her, the emotions and the moments feel sincere.
Oldman also manages to look and sound the part. With a gruff and mumbly voice and makeup to give him that balding and round Churchill shape, he becomes Churchill.
While Churchill is the focus, and rightly so, other characters come and go without the same impact. Some characters appear only occasionally, leaving viewers to question why they’re there to begin with.
The story takes place over the course of about a month, but a lot that happens in that time. Thanks to a concise script and choice editing, audiences experience only the most exciting parts told in clear and creative ways.
Although technically there is not much to complain about in “Darkest Hour,” its downfall is its same old British World War II biopic feel. Other than Oldman’s performance, not much else stands out. At times, I had a sense of deja vu, thinking I had already seen that scene, only to realize I was thinking of another movie or TV show.
“Darkest Hour” is for those those who enjoy World War II biopics and admire Churchill, providing an intriguing glimpse into his life. If you feel like “Dunkirk” satisfied your World War II fix, you might want to sit this one out.