Darkest Hour (PG)
Rating: 4 / 5
Darkest Hour follows the beginning of Winston Churchill’s wartime prime ministership in May 1940, during some of England’s darkest days in World War II.
Loathed by many in his own party, and distrusted by King George VI (Australia’s Ben Mendelsohn), 65-year old Churchill (a brilliant Gary Oldman) is elected prime minister because he is a maverick who might be able to bring the country together and lead them through the war.
Previous prime minister Neville Chamberlain (Ronald Pickup) has resigned but is still in the war cabinet and, along with Viscount Halifax (Stephen Dillane), desperately argues for England to consent to peace talks with Hitler.
But Churchill refuses to consider peace talks or surrender, wanting Britain to triumph, and he must find a way to bring British troops home from Dunkirk—and win the war.
While he has plenty of ego and bluster, Churchill also has moments of self-doubt. But he is also a brilliant reader of the British people, as shown in an amusing and memorable scene when he accidentally takes the tube to Westminster with a group of ordinary people.
In Churchill’s corner are his loyal young secretary Elizabeth (Lily James) and his redoubtable and charismatic wife Clemmie (Kristin Scott Thomas). She has some of the most pithy lines in the film, which she delivers with relish.
Eventually Churchill’s ‘crash through or crash’ approach is proven to be the right one.
Director Joe Wright’s Darkest Hour is visually beautiful and superbly cast. The pace slows in the middle, and if you don’t know your war history you may lose focus, but then the film picks up speed, sweeping the viewer along to a dramatic and satisfying conclusion.