Darkest Hour (2017)

<strong class="MovieTitle">Darkest Hour</strong> (2017)

(On Cable TV, October 2018) After decades of stellar character roles, it seems fitting that Gary Oldman would win his first Oscar for playing none other than Winston Churchill in a biographical film. Focused on the crucial months during which England found itself alone (well, alone with its globe-spanning empire) against the Nazis, Darkest Hour becomes a political thriller in which Churchill had to manoeuvre between the population and the Nazi-appeasing politicians. It’s fact-based without being entirely factual (that wonderful scene about Churchill riding the underground—never happened) yet made with such restraint that we’re led to imbue more credibility to the film than we should. There’s another word for it, of course, and that mythmaking: a deliberate attempt to further shape Churchill’s stature as the English bulldog, providing further Britannia Triumphant material. (There’s been a surprising number of those lately, from King Arthur to the newest iterations of James Bond focused on home territory—I’m thinking there’s a link with Brexit, but I’m not sure what it is yet.) Director Joe Wright seems in his element here, with a high-stakes historical drama and plenty of opportunities for respectable filmmaking. It’s not a bad movie despite the uncomfortable feeling of being manipulated through a very selective vision of history. To be fair, Oldman is very good, and Darkest Hour does manage to inject a lot of drama into historical events. It could have been worse, and if it did get Oldman a much-deserved body-of-work Oscar, then why not?

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