Darkest Hour stars Gary Oldman. It is directed by Joe Wright, who directed Pride & Prejudice, Anna Karenina, and my personal favorite, Hanna. The script was written by Anthony McCarten, the writer of The Theory of Everything.
Everyone is talking about an Oscar for Gary Oldman on this film. I have to admit I’m not all that interested in Churchill as an historical figure. But I’ve seen several portrayals of Churchill and Oldman’s is the most captivating. Director Joe Wright’s version of this moment in history creates an urgency and intensity that is difficult to imagine in a war film that shows no war. There are two overshadowing stars in this film – Gary Oldman and the cinematography.
Darkest Hour should have been titled Darkest Two Hours. The cinematography is oppressively dark and tight, setting the mood for the pressure faced by Churchill. The film is set almost entirely in the cramped offices and war rooms below Parliament. Little of the outside world and war is shown. Even the encroaching Nazi army is merely a map, moving towards the unknowing citizens of England. It became claustrophobic, which works very well. One imagines Churchill’s booming voice as the bombs we know will eventually drop on London. It left me tense and shell shocked. In the end, the film’s resolution releases the audience from a mere tinge of the pressure that was created.
Director Joe Wright said in a discussion at 92Y, that he was coming from a place of great doubt when he made this film. He had just lost $100 million dollars on “Pan”. Portraying the doubt that Churchill had in sacrificing resources and lives, when his own government wasn’t behind him, must have been appealing. The theme of doubt is pulled throughout the story as Churchill edits his speeches after the red light for radio air goes on, and his avoidance of the question on peace negotiations.
When Wright received the script, he said he’d only do it if Gary Oldman worked with him. To his shock, Mr. Oldman was willing. The other obstacle in making this film miraculously evaporated. At almost 60 years of age, Gary Oldman decided he wasn’t willing to pack on 80 pounds for this role. Oldman said he’d only take the part if he could lure Kazuhiro Tsuji, of Planet of the Apes fame, back to the chair. Tsuji left Hollywood and wasn’t interested in coming back. But he agreed!
Oldman said he wanted to paint a more human character, not the iconic image people remember from speeches. After the first attempts that were too heavy, Oldman and Tsuji came to a happy medium on the facial prosthetics. One of the quirks he brought the role was the worrisome scratches Churchill carved impatiently into the armrest of his chair.
Darkest Hour is playing in select cities and opens nationwide December 22, 2017.
If you need to take a break from the typical holiday movie, check out Darkest Hour. The you’ll know what all the buzz is about on Oscar nomination day!
Below see the trailer and press release.
During the early days of World War II, with the fall of France imminent, Britain faces its darkest hour as the threat of invasion looms. As the seemingly unstoppable Nazi forces advance, and with the Allied army cornered on the beaches of Dunkirk, the fate of Western Europe hangs on the leadership of the newly-appointed British Prime Minister Winston Churchill (Academy Award nominee Gary Oldman). While maneuvering his political rivals, he must confront the ultimate choice: negotiate with Hitler and save the British people at a terrible cost or rally the nation and fight on against incredible odds. Directed by Joe Wright, DARKEST HOUR is the dramatic and inspiring story of four weeks in 1940 during which Churchill’s courage to lead changed the course of world history.
Photo Source : Darkest Hour, Jack English & Focus Features