I realize “Darkest Hour” came out in December 2017, and that it was widely praised by critics and audiences alike. Last month, I read Erik Larson’s latest nonfiction thriller, “The Splendid and the Vile: A Saga of Churchill, Family, and Defiance During the Blitz.” My book review is here.
Reading that book about the Luftwaffe, the German Blitzkrieg of major British cities, and Churchill’s defiance, leading the armed forces to resist the Nazis air raids on Great Britain, led me to watch the classic film, “Battle of Britain.” Despite being over 50 years old, the film was intriguing and entertaining.
I decided to watch the newest biopic of Winston Churchill’s earliest days as Prime Minister of Great Britain, “Darkest Hour,” which focused mostly on his unpopular opinion that the British army, air force, and navy all should resist the Nazis, rather than negotiate terms of peace. The French army’s surrender to Germany was imminent, their remaining 300,000 troops were stranded across the English Channel, and the army surrounded in Calais was making their last stand against German forces.
As depicted in the film, the decision to fight and resist was not a certainty. Neville Chamberlain and Viscount Halifax, two prominent members of Churchill’s war cabinet with significant influence, were threatening to resign unless Churchill agreed to peace talks with Hitler, brokered by Mussolini up until the execution of Operation Dynamo, Britain’s evacuation of the British troops at Dunkirk facilitated mostly by a civilian fleet of fishing boats and personal yachts despite Germany’s superior air strength.
Joe Wright (Atonement, Pride and Prejudice) directed the film creating a constantly tense atmosphere throughout the film. Anthony McCarten (The Theory of Everything, Bohemian Rhapsody, The Two Popes), screenwriter on the film, put together some compelling dialogue, especially for the various people interacting with Churchill and his unorthodox mannerisms and dynamic personality.
The cast starting with Gary Oldman himself as Winston Churchill was excellent. He was awarded the Academy Award for Best Actor in 2018 for his performance and it was well deserved. He carried an outstanding movie, with his portrayal of Churchill as a central part of the film’s success. One unique tools added for storytelling purposes was Lily James’ role as Elizabeth Layton, personal typist to Churchill, telling the story through her eyes at parts as he crafts speeches and writes telegrams throughout the film. Kristin Scott Thomas played Clementine ‘Clemmie’ Churchill and Ben Mendelsohn played King George VI. All in all, the entire cast was superb.
I thoroughly enjoyed the film, even though I am only now just watching it. It was fascinating to see on the screen as I have read much in the past about World War II and Winston Churchill. I thought Oldman’s depiction of the iconic Churchill was both accurate and compelling. His strong personality was a testament to the belief that Churchill was the only man that Hitler feared in all of Great Britain. History has taught us that those fears were well founded.