DARKEST HOUR: Throughout his long career, actor Gary Oldman (See CLOSING CREDITS.) has been positively chameleon like owing to his ability at camouflaging himself in a role. As British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, he’s positively unrecognizable and credit for that has to go to Kazuhiro Tsuji for his prosthetic make-up and hair design. Being a performer who never met a movie set he didn’t like chewing up, Oldman gets maximum mileage from the scenes where Churchill’s rousing oratory stirred Parliament and a nation that needed the resolve to continue a war effort against the Nazis that wasn’t going well. But Anthony McCarten’s screenplay takes a page from Steven Spielberg’s LINCOLN (2012) by concentrating on the first three weeks of rule by the cigar smoking, jowely Prime Minister who managed his daily drinking by “practice”. From a historical context, the film captures the magnitude and scope of near defeat for Britain from Germany better than last summers’ DUNKIRK (2017) actually did. Being a period piece, the movie needs Sarah Greenwood’s authentic costume designs and Dario Marianelli’s musical score can be both sweeping along with having its tongue firmly in cheek during the film’s moments of comic relief. Director Joe Wright (ATONEMENT) is straightforwardly basic with the narrative moving in a chronological fashion that’s occasionally marked by cinematographer Bruno Delbonnel’s fascination with elaborate overhead “zoom outs” whose purpose feels murky at best. But the driving force of the film is Oldman’s performance which is a “lock” for a Best Actor Academy Award nomination and who explores the more private side of his character saddled with the occasional bout of self-doubting. The drawback to such a dominant performance is that it often tends to dwarf the supporting cast which happens here with Kristin Scott Thomas (THE ENGLISH PATIENT) who’s given short shrift as his patient wife who knows how to deliver verbal jabs of her own and Lily James (BABY DRIVER) as his put-upon secretary. But overall, the movie is an accurate and absorbing story about world-changing events that’s laid out simply but effectively.
CRITIC’S GRADE: B+
CLOSING CREDITS: Here are some other excellent movies starring Gary Oldman – SID AND NANCY (1986), PRICK UP YOUR EARS (1987), JFK (1991), BRAM STOKER’S DRACULA (1992), TRUE ROMANCE (1993), IMMORTAL BELOVED (1994), AIR FORCE ONE (1997), THE FIFTH ELEMENT (1997), THE CONTENDER (2000), HARRY POTTER AND THE PRISONER OF AZKABAN (2004), BATMAN BEGINS (2005), HARRY POTTER AND THE GOBLET OF FIRE (2005), HARRY POTTER AND THE ORDER OF THE PHOENIX (2007), THE DARK KNIGHT (2008), HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS: PART 2 (2011), TINKER TAILOR SOLDIER SPY (2011)*, THE DARK KNIGHT RISES (2012), DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES (2014)
*Academy Award Nomination for Best Actor