Darkest Hour (2017)
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Now I must point out that I am a retired history teacher and I consider Winston Churchill to be perhaps the greatest politician of the century. So, I clearly have a bias and predisposition towards liking the movie...especially if it's done well. Is it a crowd pleaser? Maybe not, as the average movie-goer (especially teens) might not enjoy this or care a lick about the film.
The story covers only a portion of the month of May, 1940...just before the fall of France during WWII. Prime Minster Chamberlain is about to be tossed out of office, as his appeasement strategy with Hitler has turned out to be completely stupid. In his place, some hope for Churchill to be the next Prime Minister...though some forces are working to depose him as soon as he comes to power. At the same time, the war is going as badly as it possibly can. Can Churchill survive this? Well, of course...duh, it's HISTORY!
The reasons to see this are two big ones....the film has achieved the look of 1940 beautifully and Gary Oldman provides an Oscar- winning performance in the lead. If he is not at least nominated for this top award, I will be completely shocked...and he really managed (along with ample prosthetics) to LOOK and SOUND like the great man. Great job all around...and a perfect film.
However, something is not right. If most people get their history from movies, this is concerning. It's obvious that actual events occurred with real people and what they did and said but in a movie this gets pasteurized into what smart people believe will be more thrilling, more sympathetic, more emotional. That process necessarily alters things into something that is even anachronistically rendered and therefore not in the record.
This defect occurs frequently in this movie , so it's not history but myth making. A good example is Churchill's dive into the Underground to meet the common person to steel his resolve. Now Churchill had a mixed view of the average voter, and he was a patrician, but even that aside, he did not need to take a Tube train survey to gauge opinion.
This scene is poached from Shakespeare's Henry V where the king goes among his soldiers the night before battle to hear them and take courage from their strength. Steal from the best is a good policy, but it's not history. It's Shakespearean history and that trades effect for accuracy too.
The audience is given this scene to present Churchill as an instrument of democracy; he's acting for what the people want, therefore he's doing the right thing. It's called pandering.
Well, it is just a movie.
It would be helpful if some of the "1" voters explained why they hated the movie.
This movie is about British backroom parliamentary politics, in the 1st month of Winston Churchill's prime ministership. With the war going badly, a rearguard of peaceniks is still trying to get a peace deal with Hitler, despite having been pushed out of power.
It certainly worked for me, a political junkie. If you are one too, this is for you. If not, maybe like the "1" and "2" voters, you might be bored to tears and should stay away.
But this is nothing like I have seen before. He is so funny.
We see his ability to make jokes like never before and there is more here than just dry sarcastic references.
He keeps us in stitches. He must have told 25 jokes.
This film starts in the days when Chamberlain knows he cannot continue as prime minister, alongside the crippling uncertainty of his cabinet meetings, and through to when the entire country, as a result of his speeches, stands firmly behind Churchill as war leader.
What surprised me the most was how large a role the opposition party played in Churchill's rise to power.
Excellent supporting cast from those distinguished actors we have seen in many BBC productions and "Game of Thrones".
Ben Mendelsohn's portrayal of King George VI was stunningly well done.
A real delight at Tiff - too bad no Q&A for my screening.
Probably my favorite film of 2017 so far. Pacing is superb. Historically pretty accurate
It's a must see for any WW2 fans, political fans and Winston Churchill fans.
When telling a story as well-known as that of Winston Churchill and the Second World War, being both exciting and historically accurate isn't always easy, but that's where the unique take on the historical drama of Darkest Hour comes in.
Yes, it does tell of the extreme intensity of the early days of the war, the political manoeuvring in Westminster as Churchill was appointed Prime Minister, and the very real and impending threat that the fall of Britain could very well mean the end of freedom-loving Western civilisation, which are all absolutely fascinating to watch unfold, but they're all parts of history that you arguably already know very well.
That's why the film's decision to bring a brilliant sense of humour and a strong passion to proceedings is so effective. The importance of the events being portrayed on screen is never downplayed, and there are indeed some very intense and emotionally powerful moments, but there's so much more to Darkest Hour than just history, something that made it such a refreshing watch compared to how most Oscar-bait biographies turn out.
Above all, what impressed me most about the film was the fact that it's just so funny. It's by no means a comedy, but this isn't a pompous and dry historical drama, but one that takes glee in pointing out the eccentricities in its main character, eccentricities which are undoubtedly a part of why Churchill is so lauded and respected to this day.
While the film praises Churchill's bulldog spirit in fighting the fight against the Nazis, it's always keen to show him in a slightly brighter light, almost as if he was a man who stumbled into the most important job in history by coincidence. In that, there are so many genuinely hilarious scenes as Churchill's quirky personality clashes with the more uptight politicians of Westminster, a part of the film that I felt not only made everything more entertaining, but helped to give the movie an incredibly refreshing energy, allowing me to see Churchill in a very relatable, personal light rather than just as a historical figure from a textbook.
As well as being downright hilarious at points, there's a real passion behind the film's depiction of the darkest hours of the war. With Churchill being forced over to opening peace talks with Hitler, the film does an incredible job at inspiring you to a point of fever pitch, fully backing Churchill's bulldog spirit to fight and defend freedom to the very last moment, meaning that the internal conflict he suffers throughout the film is such a riveting focal point.
This is an undoubtedly patriotic film, and heaps a lot of praise onto Churchill's gusto, but that doesn't mean it's overly jingoistic. There may be a case that Brits watching the film will feel more emotion from its incredible passion, but I still feel that most of that comes from how well the character of Churchill is developed throughout, from a bumbling, mumbling, lovable old man to a truly honest and principled leader.
Finally, we have to talk about Gary Oldman's performance, which is amazing. For one, thanks of course in part to the make-up and costume teams, it's pretty impossible to tell that you're watching Gary Oldman in this movie. But not only does he look nothing like Oldman, and so much more like Churchill, but everything about Oldman's performance, from the smallest details about Churchill to his fantastic passion and energy on screen, pulls you further and further into the moment, and creates an exceptionally convincing portrayal of the great man and the situation surrounding him, which I was blown away by.
Overall, I absolutely loved Darkest Hour. It's an undoubtedly riveting historical drama about a crucial turning point in global history, but more than that, it's full of incredible energy from start to finish, with amazing and still appropriate humour throughout combined with stunning patriotic passion, making for a genuinely exciting and properly entertaining film that does so much more than your typical Oscar-bait fare.
Wright's film, which simply covers the month of May 1940 when Churchill was elected Prime Minister and saw the evacuation at Dunkirk has every cliche in the book including a disasterous scene when Winston decides to ride the Underground for the first time in order to gauge public opinion. This sequence is positively embarrasing though Oldman just about manages to carry it off. Elsewhere the film is very unevenly acted. The men have the best of it with both Ben Mendelsohn and Ronald Pickup impressing as the King and Neville Chamberlin respectively. On the other hand, Kristin Scott Thomas isn't given enough to do as a rather genteel Clemmie and Lily James makes for a very dull secretary. So then, very much a hit and miss affair worth seeing for Oldman's Oscar-winning performance, (they may as well put his name on it now), providing you are prepared for another lame history movie and Wright's poorest picture to date.
I can accept when movie makers make 5 things happen in one day that actually took place on different days or merge 5 peripheral persons into one, as they so often do, to give it better momentum. But to take liberties with historical facts, the ones that make the foundation of the movie. Stop doing that... It should be illegal.
And for those in a bad mood now: Check out "Young Winston" from 1972. AFAIK depicts truth well, and at least I was surprised to know about his youth.
The subject matter will clearly divide audiences thanks to its pat view of history: UK as the righteous hero and everyone else as inept -- Italians and French losers, Germans the evil fascists, US completely unmentioned, Canada the quiet prairie for monarchs to escape to -- in the still-somewhat- mysterious Dunkirk incident where Hitler could easily have tightened the noose and pushed UK over the edge of what was evidently a crushing defeat, but somehow allowed them the leeway to escape by civilian boats. There's next to no mention of the French army that stood its ground and valiantly sacrificed itself to win a couple of days for the Brits on the beach.
All that said, as a film, this is a gripping narrative with just the kind of insouciant wit you'd expect from Churchill. While movies such as "The Gathering Storm" with Albert Finney were more considered, Darkest Hour is the kind of production that wows awards juries and audiences. Worthy watch when it comes to a theater near you. I feel Nolan's "Dunkirk" would be richer if you saw it *after* Darkest Hour.
Churchill has to be understood in the light of his heritage and class. If a peripheral player initially, he was born into the ruling class. Like many only begrudgingly accepted into its ranks, he was therefore one of its strongest proponents. He believed he was born to rule just as much as commoners were born to die in the service of empire. The class system meant that he would never, ever have confided in someone he regarded as a commoner and the notion of him even addressing a black man is ludicrous. He was a committed racist firmly believing it to be the natural order of things. This is the man who, as a boy, simply wrote "Marlborough" on his entrance exam to Harrow believing this was enough to gain entry. It was.
Churchill was well known for summoning servants and government employees to action while he was toileting or in the bath. This was not because he was accessible, charismatic or comfortable with his body as portrayed in the film. Rather this was a man who simply didn't simply care what they thought because he was Churchill and they weren't.
The film quotes Churchill as supporting the marriage of Edward VIII to Wallis Simpson. In actuality Churchill was a pivotal character in opposing the marriage of Edward VIII to Wallis Simpson. Not because she was a divorcee and he was morally outraged (Churchill's father died of syphilis after a lifetime of philandering and his mother used sex as a social tool) but because he knew Edward would resign over it and he vehemently opposed Edwards desire to be an involved monarch. Simpson was widely believed to be having an affair with Von Ribbentrop (Hitlers foreign minister) and Churchill knew Hitler would use this to his benefit against a weak and easily influenced king. Churchill would never have been familiar with George VI and probably privately despised him as a weak and unprepared monarch. The royal family and many of their closest allies were closet supporters of Hitler believing him to be far preferable to the Communists who were a substantially more concrete threat. Churchill was utterly loyal to the throne and monarchy but George VI was only the current incumbent just as Edward VIII before him, had been.
The film portrays Halifax and Chamberlain as weak appeasers when in actuality their fears were the loss of a complete generation of men like that experienced in WWI. Horror was embedded deep within many politicians who had seen/survived active service during WWI and were desperate to not revisit that period. Chamberlain is recorded as believing Hitler would most likely break his word but knew he had no choice but to try and gain time for rearmament despite the cost to his own career and legacy.
It might not be a convenient truth but, successful evacuation of the troops at Dunkirk was solely because of 'Churchills' flotilla but probably because of Hitlers stated reluctance for a massacre. Hitler did not feel the British were the natural enemy (that was the communists) and that a massacre would negate the possibility of a agreement.
If Gary Oldham wanted to be Churchill, then he failed. Churchill was much more imposing, had a deeper voice with substantially more gravitas. Oldhams voice is thin and reedy and, at one point, he even adopts a regional accent. Churchill was a war monger, rude, inconsiderate, terribly ill mannered and selfish but would sacrifice himself in a second for the notion of service and empire. He was not your irascible but charming uncle as portrayed in this film.
But the scene that ruined the movie for me is the Underground scene. First off, any viewer can guess that this scene never happened whereas all the other scenes that are fictitious at least seem plausible and possible. But the Underground scene is just too much. I imagine the English people to have been very divided at the time about the question whether it made sense to negotiate with Hitler or not. But the director here is adamant about showing us that the English people as a whole were unified in their will to fight fascism. He represents a cross section of the English people, with minorities represented as well, and all of them show support for Churchill's resolve. This scene, to me at least, is pure populism. I belive that Churchill made the right call and that it doesn't matter whether the English people were behind him or not, because history showed that he was right. There's no need for additional pathos here and there is also no need to make the audience believe that politicians are in touch with the common people or take the people's view into account.
If the director had decided to drop this scene I probably wold have rated the movie 8 out of 10.
The film's narrative takes place during May 1940. The Nazis are beginning to take control of much of western Europe, and Winston Churchill is named Prime Minister after a dissatisfied government in Parliament convinces Neville Chamberlain to resign. Much has been said in the press about Gary Oldman's performance as Winston Churchill. While he does a fine job, the somewhat overdone nature of his performance makes clear that it is unfortunately not the Oscar slam-dunk performance we were all hoping for. The film's supporting cast, however, is quite good--as is the rapid but engaging pacing of the story's narrative.
Unfortunately, what makes "Darkest Hour" a miss is the sad truth that the film's script is a disaster. The film exhausts itself with virtually every cliché in the biopic/historical costume drama genres, such as: young female characters that basically do nothing except help the male protagonist, a large group of strangers introducing themselves to the protagonist after recognizing him, a sentimental climax meant to simply 'tie everything up' rather than make the audience reflect critically on the subject of the biopic, etc. The writing fails to address the points that made Churchill such an effective leader. All in all, while not terrible, this is a very bland biopic that was a huge letdown for me. 4.5/10
Oldman missed something. Sure, his acting was great, but I believe it to be an 'overplay'. Instead of capturing the essence of Churchill he sensationalized him, making him excited and over agitated far too often. Having seen many portrayals of Churchill, and reading quite a lot about him over my life, this version seemed entirely too....fictional. I think they could have done better.
Title (Brazil): "O Destino de uma Nação" ("The Fate of a Nation")
I could not believe anyone would present this garbage as an accurate portrayal of the man or the times. They have made Churchill look like an indecisive wimp and had him speaking in a manner that is not found in any historical footage of the great man. He came across as a repulsive bully who only stopped drinking when he went to sleep. Although he did self medicate his manic depression with alcohol he certainly did not drink to the level portrayed in this piece of trash. The inaccuracies of his efforts and of the times are far too numerous to list, I stopped counting after about the first ten minutes. The movie itself was disjointed, poorly made and reflected a lack of effort on the part of both the production team and the actors. How cheap did they want to make this movie, toy boats in a tub with a back drop of the white cliffs of dover, totally ridiculous. The scene of him on the underground station and on the train were beyond belief, neither he or the general population ever behaved like that, it may be movie material but it is definitely not historically accurate.
All the people involved in this movie would have needed to do was watch any of three movies, Churchill, Their Finest or Dunkirk; to have gained a much better grasp of the times, the people and indeed of Churchill himself and those close to him. If anyone involved in this movie had watched these other movies than made this tragic excuse for a film, than, I think they best find a new profession.
I really regret paying the price of admission for this and it certainly shows how little an oscar nomination is worth , if this pre school effort has received seven nominations. I cannot recommend this and wonder why they even bothered making it, just trying to ride on the coat tails of the british film industry again.
The film suggests a lot of topics, but doesn't seem to take a stance on any of them. It doesn't even give a comprehensive account of either Winston Churchill or what England was like during World War 2. Rather, the film focuses on Churchill sitting in a few meetings and then giving a couple of speeches over the course of about a month leading up to England's official entry into the second world war. This is a terribly boring subject and I can't picture ANYONE having wanted to see a LONG, LONG, LONG movie about this very insignificant part of history.
Worse yet is that the movie had so very, many moments of promise, but failed to make good on any of them. For example, Churchill's wife said something which suggested that the rest of the family hated Winston because he had sacrificed his family for his career. The movie could have explored this and other issues that he had with his family, but it doesn't. Why bring it up at all if the matter will never be mentioned again? The movie sets up the comparison between Churchill, Hitler, and Trump, but never discusses the matter. Churchill's massive political and military failures were hinted at, but never discussed. Possibly even more irritating is the fact that the film never mentions how Churchill rose to power on a single-minded policy of military action despite the public and the British Government knowing of his MASSIVE bungling of several military campaigns in the past.
Moreover, the movie fails to mention various critical and/or interesting things about Winston Churchill such as how he had a strange and extremely deep connection with a Mr. Lindemann whose counsel he sought daily and whose words he heeded without question. The movie also portrays Churchill as a man of the people when, in fact, he hated nearly everyone and especially the common people and non-Caucasians. He was a massive bigot whose bigotry and blind faith in his friend's advice led to the death of tens of millions of British subjects and yet none of it is mentioned in a biopic about him!
Lastly, the film doesn't even bother to explain the few things that it does bring up. For example, it is never explained why the two main parties in Parliament chose him. It is not explained why the plot to remove him never happens. It is not explained why the king suddenly changes from actively despising and distrusting Churchill to blindly supporting him. It is not explained why Parliament is bored by Churchill's first speech but goes frat party crazy throwing paper everywhere and shouting approval after Churchill's second speech despite it being almost the same as his first speech!
Ready? Set? Zzzzzzzzzz.
Aside from the occasional bursts from Parliament (which we know from the history books) and the occasional joke shared between Oldman and one of the other characters, the film is completely unremarkable. I've never been so disappointed by any other rendition of this historical tale. The film is boring and flat. I tried to watch it through on three separate occasions in the theatre -- the last mid-day and after substantial amounts of coffee, which finally allowed me to get through it.
Skipping past any small blunders in the historical details, and with no visible "crackle" between Churchill and Eden (I mean COME ON! that at least should have been properly managed) the focus is on the one expression, "bugger on," and portrays a cantankerous and inept PM.
Will the movie be nominated for awards? Probably so... I mean, come on, look at the cast. Should it be? No.
If you're suffering from insomnia, put down the nightcap and go watch this film.