Darkest Hour Review
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Earlier this year, director Christopher Nolan took audiences along for the rescue mission in his first war drama, Dunkirk. Now Joe Wright offers viewers a different perspective on the same rescue mission while examining the early days of a legendary leader in Darkest Hour.

Darkest Hour is set in May of 1940, as the German army continues its march across Europe. British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain (Ronald Pickup) has been forced out of office for his mishandling of the impending waróand the only acceptable replacement is Winston Churchill (Gary Oldman), an eccentric character whoís known more for his missteps than his triumphs. And as soon as heís appointed to the office, he finds himself faced with opposition from his party and his war cabinet as he tries to decide whether to negotiate with Hitler or march into war.

  
 
High school kids may learn about the great Winston Churchill, who led his country through World War IIóbut Darkest Hour tells a different story. This isnít the Churchill of history books. Itís the Churchill who became Prime Minister because his party felt that they didnít have much of a choice. Heís blunt and abrasiveóa demanding boss whose regular work habits would most likely lead to numerous lawsuits today. And his colleagues see him as an utter disasteróa man lacking in judgment.

Of course, thatís part of what makes this biopic so fascinating. It goes behind the scenes, beneath the public persona of the man who gave moving speeches and inspired his country. Here, he lies to the people to give them hope. He makes unpopular decisions and goes against all of his colleaguesí (and the kingís) advice. Yet he somehow gets it right.

At the heart of the film is a captivating performance by a nearly unrecognizable Gary Oldman. Churchill is a distinctive character in his walk, his speech, and his personality, and Oldman fully transforms himself for the part. Admittedly, the story isnít as action-packed and thrilling as audiences might expect from a biography about Winston Churchill, but itís an intriguing character study, following him as he comes into power in the middle of a difficult time for his country and makes the decisions that turned him into a celebrated world leader.

Darkest Hour is like a quieter, thoughtful companion piece to Christopher Nolanís Dunkirkóone taking place in the middle of the action, the other set in the offices and meeting rooms where leaders called the shots. This one isnít as explosive, but itís an interesting look at the discussions and decisionsóand the man who became a legend.


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