Thursday, December 28, 2017

Darkest Hour - Review

Awards season is like a broken record, leaving one like they constantly repeat themselves. And while the term “Oscar Bait” is a dying term, one can’t help but notice the numerous films based around a real individual with hopes of praise and glory. Throw in a little bit of World War II historical context and boom, you’ve got an easy entry into the conversation. Luckily, Darkest Hour approaches its historical figure, Winston Churchill, with grace and excellence without losing the electric nature of the man himself.

A thrilling and inspiring true story begins at the precipice of World War II as, within days of becoming Prime Minister of Great Britain, Winston Churchill (Gary Oldman) must face one of his most turbulent and defining trials: exploring a negotiated peace treaty with Nazi Germany, or standing firm to fight for the ideals, liberty and freedom of a nation. As the unstoppable Nazi forces roll across Western Europe and the threat of invasion is imminent, and with an unprepared public, a skeptical King, and his own party plotting against him, Churchill must withstand his darkest hour, rally a nation, and attempt to change the course of world history.

Obviously, Darkest Hour has an inherently interesting time period, evident by the fact that a film surrounding the same period released earlier this year in Dunkirk. The film’s biggest strength, however, is seemingly delving deeper into this legendary figure. It’s incredibly engaging throughout, even if the meticulous narrative isn’t quite as strong. Which is part of the films issues, along with an assortment of slow moments that, while suitable for this type of film, could certainly have been passed up to tighten the whole film up a bit.

Regardless of the iota of story or pacing issues, Darkest Hour thrives due to the astounding turn from Gary Oldman. This is through and through his film to the point where while other actors or actresses are good as well, they get lost behind the powerful performance of Oldman. The transformation is stunning and Oldman manages to portray such confidence and power while never forgetting the vulnerability as the film progresses. Others like Kristin Scott Thomas and Ben Mendelsohn deliver fine performances, they just can’t escape the looming presence of Oldman.

While there is no debate that Hollywood loves to play around in World War II, the more political side of things has been left rather untapped in favor of big battles. It’s a shame, as Darkest Hour really takes advantage of these dealings and conversations hold a great deal of weight to them and director Joe Wright knows it. Wright does a fantastic job of making these rooms full of men discussing potential actions actually exciting in a unique way, something the film needs in order to stave off the potential for the slow pace to really bog it down.

Overall, Darkest Hour is a film that asks you to invest in this man that so many people already know to a degree and then watch him struggle like so many others. It isn’t a stellar film by any means, but the performance from Gary Oldman elevates Darkest Hour into a clear-cut awards contender, and likely a win for the actor himself (and the Makeup department too, let’s not forget them). While there are arguably better films in theaters today, Darkest Hour presents a really important time in really well-done fashion.

So what did you think of Darkest Hour? Have you seen it? Are you interested in seeing it? Share, subscribe, comment below, and as always return to I Am Sam for weekly reviews and insight. 

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