'Darkest Hour' review: You don't want to miss Gary Oldman's performance

Director Joe Wright brings a well-lit World War II drama tied with a bow of beautiful cinematography

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Gary Oldman as Winston Churchill

Movie: Darkest Hour

Cast: Gary Oldman, Kristin Scott Thomas, Lily James, Ben Mendelsohn, Ronald Pickup, Stephen Dillane, and Joe Armstrong

Director: Joe Wright

Genre: Drama

Duration: 2 hours 5 minutes

Critic's ratings: ****


Winston Churchill (Gary Oldman) gave an iconic speech in House of Commons of the Parliament of the United Kingdom on 4 June 1940 that is popularly known as 'We Shall Fight on the Beaches.' The speech was inspired by the fighting spirit of the common British people at the time and Churchill fanned it furthermore with his oratory skills. The result was London survived the blitz and UK and the Allies won World War II.

Darkest Hour is the dramatic build-up to that speech.


There is only one way of recognising that it is Gary Oldman who is playing Churchill in director Joe Wright's Darkest Hour. It's a certain twang in his voice when he pronounces words with the letter 'N' in it. Otherwise, for the entirety of the 2-hour-5-minute film, it's Oldman and his masterpiece of a performance that takes the movie to a whole new level, worthy of the star's Golden Globe win for Best Actor. Oldman spent 200 hours in make-up and went through 63 different settings to get the look right. His mannerisms, posture and dialogue delivery keeps spectators hooked. This is especially true in the scenes that show his vulnerability, where Churchill is aware of his unlikeability and the gravity of the possible doom that could envelop the island he calls home if Germany isn't stopped.

Kristin Scott Thomas' portrayal of Clementine Churchill is one of the best ones so far. She stands tall in scenes with Oldman, adding her spunk to her character as the woman who was Churchill's bedrock. Lily James as Elizabeth Layton and Ben Mendelsohn as King George VI do a fine job.


It is director Joe Wright and cinematographer Bruno Delbonnel's collaboration that creates magic on the screen. From making the whiskey look like liquid gold to showing the loss of hope in the eyes of the commanding officer in the Calais battleground, the close-ups and the lighting of the scenes is phenomenal. Anthony McCarten's dialogues are peppered with dry British humour, providing lighter moments in an otherwise intense drama that sees Churchill battle his Parliament, Cabinet, and the Germans at the same time.

The biggest drawback of the movie is its speed. Crisp editing would have made a lot of difference if Wright had ignored the temptation of keeping his beloved track shots and top shots.

There have been many portrayals of Churchill in the past. John Lithgow's in The Crown was the latest to win accolades last year. This year it will be Gary Oldman.

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