“You can not reason with a tiger when your head is in its mouth…”
Winston Churchill has been portrayed on screen more times than I’ve had hot dinners. Well… maybe not quite as many as that actually, but only because I am a greedy, portly man. Much like Winston himself. This decade alone has seen Brian Cox, Michael Gambon, Timothy Spall and John Lithgow take on Churchill, among others. So where does Gary Oldman rank? Predictably, right at the very top…
Prosthetics and make up can do a great deal in 2018 but Oldman’s transformation is more than just a physical one. He embodies everything that has become iconic about Churchill, the shambling walk, the inimitable intonation and speech and the fierce passion and devotion to his country. Oldman has always shone in roles in which he can sink his teeth in to. With Churchill, he has met his perfect match.
With Neville Chamberlain removed from office, the controversial Winston Churchill is installed amidst infighting, confusion and the looming threat of a Nazi invasion. By concentrating on this specific period in history, director Joe Wright is able to allow the story to breath in order to fully do justice to just how close we came as a nation to attempting to broker peace with Adolf Hitler. Anthony McCarten’s script is tight and manages to make cabinet meetings exciting, no small feat I’m sure we would all agree.
Darkest Hour isn’t solely the Gary Oldman show however. Kristen Scott Thomas shares a quite beautiful chemistry with her on screen husband and Lily James continues to impress as Churchill’s enthusiastic assistant Elizabeth Layton. Ben Mendelsohn makes for a suitably regal King George VI and Stephen Dillane keeps Viscount Halifax from descending into pantomime villainy. This is an ensemble piece but it is Oldman who holds the film together and elevates it into one of the years most compelling cinematic experiences. His portrayal of Churchill has earned him his third Oscar nomination. It is a strong field this year but surely nobody would begrudge Oldman his first gong at this years event?
Darkest Hour works as a wonderful counter point to Dunkirk but it is also a thoroughly enjoyable film in its own right. Way more than just a history lesson.