Director: Joe Wright Starring: Gary Oldman, Kristen Scott Thomas, Lily James, Ben Mendelsohn, Stephen Dillane Running Time: 125 minutes
When the Bard gets boring, it’s increasingly appealing to distinguished actors to turn to Winston Churchill for their monologue jollies; “we shall fight them on the beaches” being as suitable for performance as anything Shakespeare ever did. Through various films, such noteworthy performers as Albert Finney, our own Brendan Gleeson, Brian Cox last year and um…Christian Slater, have donned the bowler hat, stuck up a V-sign and gotten down to speechifying, and now Gary Oldman picks up that mantle. Unrecognisable in impressive make up, Oldman’s turn in Darkest Hour is being put forth as a showcase for the veteran, a big Oscar-grabbing performance in a film that looks, as many do, back at Britain’s ‘darkest hour’ also in some ways as its finest. Let’s not forget, there was literally a film about this exact same time-period titled Their Finest released just last year. Rarely, if ever, do films of this type want to engage with Churchill the racist, the Churchill that sent soldiers into Tonypandy or helped starve India, or set up the Black and Tans and Darkest Hour is no exception, an effort to rouse and court applause and though it’s definitely well-made enough to receive that in some quarters, the film and Oldman’s central performance are both at their best when they tone down the bombast and openly admit just how close Britain came to ruin.