Liverpool Sound and Vision Rating * * * *
Cast: Gary Oldman, Kristin Scott Thomas, Ben Mendelsohn, Lily James, Ronald Pickup, Stephen Dillane, Nicholas Jones, Samuel West, David Schofield, Richard Lumsden, Malcolm Storry, Hilton McRae, Benjamin Whitrow, Joe Armstrong, Adrian Rawlins, David Bamber, Paul Leonard, David Strathairn, Eric MacLennan, Philip Martin Brown, Jordan Waller, Alex Clatworthy, Anna Burnett, Jeremy Child, Brian Pettifer, Michael Gould, Pip Torrens.
Few men in history can go through life without causing waves, without being the conversation of being somehow divisive, hated perhaps in equal measure as they are loved; it is the symbol perhaps of just how much drive a person can have in life, a thirst for adventure that makes them the figures they are.
Winston Churchill is one such man of history, many friends, a hell of a lot of enemies, adored by countless, despised by swathes, and that is just in Britain and across the water in Ireland. It is in that manner that Darkest Hour, Joe Wright’s latest directorial offering, that the true nature of looking with myopic or wide eyed rose tinted stories can be a blessing or a curse.
If you look at Churchill’s life as a whole then that resonance of being divisive strikes home, To name just even the disaster of Gallipoli, his sending in the Black and Tans into Ireland or even the fact that his own party disliked and distrusted him, is enough to send out the warning that he is not someone who enjoyed immense all round popularity. Yet as Darkest Hour shows poignantly it was his inspiration that kept Britain going when all her fell under the evil of fascism, a true orator to whom the nation rallied when the chips were not just down but when all seemed lost.
The film looks at the period in time of May 1940, Europe was gone, Hitler seemed unstoppable and Chamberlain, ill and desperate, just as despised across the floor of the Commons by Labour and the Liberals as Churchill was amongst the grandees of his party; history calls in such circumstances and for good or ill, Churchill answered, mainly because Lord Halifax was found to be wanting.
The film focuses greatly of the several battles going on, the one within his mind against the depression he called his Black Dog being illuminating particularly as the enormity of the task took hold and the realisation he was going to have to sacrifice 4,000 men in Calais if it meant that 300,000 could be rescued from Dunkirk. His battle with his own past, with Lord Halifax, with the ghosts and the imagined, as well as the Nazi regime; throughout it all, the constantly unflappable Gary Oldman portrayed him with style, with grace, gravitas and with the wonderful sense of world weariness that is demanded in such a role.
With fine support from Kristen Scott Thomas, Samuel West, Ronald Pickup and David Schofield, Gary Oldman brings the titan of the age back to life; for good or ill, you have to ask just who else could have done what he did in that moment of time; just for that moment he was the voice that carried resistance and hope for millions in what was the Darkest Hour for the nation.
Darkest Hour is a tremendously insightful film and arguably one that should see a raft of stories in which the whole of Churchill’s life can be examined in full.
Ian D. Hall