For the life of me, I cannot remember learning much of anything about Winston Churchill. I may have heard his name in passing either in High School or in College, but that was really it (perhaps I was in the bathroom at the time my teacher would talk about him). That said, I have had to rely on depictions of him in media.
Many actors have played him in the past (most recently Brian Cox and John Lithgow). Now, in director Joe Wright’s Darkest Hour, it is Gary Oldman’s turn at the plate. Forget knocking it out of the park: He knocks the cover off and the ball is shattered into pieces as what is left of the core is somewhere over the right field wall. We see Churchill as his party is getting ready to replace the disappointing Neville Chamberlain (Ronald Chamberlain) as Prime Minister. There is only one person the opposition will allow, and that is Winston.
This, of course, is just on the eve of World War two, with Hitler’s forces weakening that of England’s by the hour. It is not needed to be said, but we do hear Clem Churchill (Kristin Scott Thomas) tell her husband how he has “the full weight of the world on your shoulders”. It is clear we can see the pain, frustration, and worry in every crevice of Churchill’s face (thanks, of course, to Oldman).
The problem I have with the film is that many parts do come out as rather dull. I was hoping for something somewhat edgier. It should be noted that the dull parts are mainly when Oldman is not on-screen. Perhaps it is because we already know what will eventually happen.
Thankfully, the strength of the movie is (if you have not guessed by now), Oldman’s performance. He is so into the character you really have to remind yourself that the actor is present at all. Any other actor may just have made this an impersonation, but Oldman is far too talented and experienced to give us that. We see the aforementioned worry, the humor (“I can only deal with one s*** at a time”), the flamboyance, the more than occasional rudeness (such as snapping at the young secretary played nicely by Lily James),and the sheer spirit of the prime minister.
Parents, the movie is PG-13 mainly for swearing (no F bombs, but a few swears here and there). Middle School and up.
The previously mentioned line of “having the weight of the world on your shoulders” could be paraphrased to say that Oldman has the weight of the whole movie on his. Which he carries with ease, power, charm, and grit.
Overall: Three and a Half Stars *** 1/2