Somebody just please hand Gary Oldman his Oscar right now. Because he has basically won it in his turn as Winston Churchill in DARKEST HOUR, one of the better political autobiographies we have seen in the last decade. What is really funny is that there was another movie earlier this year entitled Churchill that showed Brian Cox as the infamous Prime Minister, and it even dealt with some of the same moments as this film did, that film was ultimately inferior. Brian Cox was good, but not Gary Oldman good, and the film was kind of boring, while this one is perfectly paced considering its two hours, and the stylistic choices of director Joe Wright in how he wanted to tell this story makes for a more interesting dynamic than the other film did. Darkest Hour, while very very good, won’t be making my top 15 list this year, Gary Oldman definitely makes my top favorite performance of the year, easily.
Darkest Hour basically takes place during early World War II and the time where Neville Chamberlain resigns as Prime Minister due to the fact that his country doesn’t feel like he is doing anything to stop Hitler from invading all of Europe. They appoint Winston Churchill, who instead of peace talks with Hitler and Germany wants to use the full force of Britain’s army and completely take down Hitler’s reign despite incredible odds.. The other politicians favor the peace talks and have to constantly bite their tongue more and more often the longer that Churchill is Prime Minister and acts on his conscience. Eventually that tongue biting stops and they have to get forceful with him and his views.
Like I said, Gary Oldman is incredible here. His make up does help (it’s the best age/appearance transformation make up I’ve seen since Eddie Murphy in The Nutty Professor) but it is his acting that is truly masterful. He has Churchill’s speech patterns down, his manurisms, he is completely transformed where you don’t see Gary Oldman at all during the 2 hours run time. Absolutely incredible. The acting on all sides is good too. Kirsten Scott Thomas as his wife, Ben Mendolsohn as King George VI and especially Lily James as his assistant Elizabeth Layton, all provide great supporting performances to give the film that added weight.
But also most importantly, it is a pretty dang good movie. A lot of political biographical films like this almost put me to sleep, but something about Joe Wright’s direction completely had my eyes do a 180. I was completely entertained and kept asking myself, “what happens next?” when the title cards of each day goes by. If you are looking for a war film, you’ve looked in the wrong place. There is basically no action in this film other than a couple of above air explosions and you see some aftermath of soldiers that have been injured in battle.
But this is Gary Oldman’s show, and he makes the movie completely watchable and entertaining with his performance. Gary Oldman is long overdue for his Oscar and unless he has some creepy sexual harassment shit in his past that is about to come to light, the Oscar is his. Easily. I will be shocked if they don’t give it to him. This will only be his 2nd nomination overall, but it feels like he has already been in a Leonardo DiCaprio situation for all these years he has been in the business. I would recommend seeing this film for his performance alone, but if you are also into that history political autobiographical type stuff, this is right up your alley too.