TIFF 2017 Review: “Darkest Hour” is This Year’s Oscar Front Runner
Darkest Hour is a return to form for Joe Wright. The story in Darkest Hour takes place over the course of three weeks and focuses on Winston Churchill (Gary Oldman) and his rise to power as the new British Prime Minister. The film showcases Churchill taking office and his inner struggles on deciding how to handle Dunkirk as well as Adolf Hitler.
The film will be without question one of this year’s front runners come award season. Darkest Hour is the type of film that will engage all audiences from history buffs to fans of character driven films. It features gorgeous cinematography, fantastic direction, and a career best performance by Gary Oldman. As someone who honestly doesn’t care for or like films dealing with or revolving around war, I was truly fascinated by this film, and it held my attention the entire two hours plus runtime.
Darkest Hour is captivating and just hooks the viewer right away. This is mainly due to Gary Oldman’s performance which is nothing short of spectacular. Gary Oldman isn’t in this film, but rather all we see is Winston Churchill from the very first scene. I have never seen such a remarkable portrayal of a famous person where I instantly forget that I’m watching an actor. I bet that if you showed this film to anyone who didn’t know the cast prior and you asked them who was playing Churchill, no one would be able to tell you. This is how incredible Oldman is in this film.
Oldman’s performance isn’t just about the makeup but rather the mannerisms and voice. Churchill was a man that was known to be somewhat out of the ordinary regarding his behavior. Oldman captures all those small moments from his odd eating and drinking habits to how he interacted with others. Churchill was an incredible speaker who said many inspirational things during his short time as Prime Minister. Gary Oldman has the voice down to perfection and delivers every line of dialogue with such conviction.
The supporting cast is solid all around especially Ben Mendelsohn as the king. Mendelsohn’s performance is both comedic as well as dramatic. His character is pivotal to the story and becomes the voice of reason in the film’s final act. There are some other familiar faces that show up in the film such as Lily James and Kristin Scott Thomas. Both of them are great actresses, but none compare to Oldman’s powerhouse performance.
There are several great Churchill moments brought to life in this film. Several of his most memorable speeches are recreated, and they are so well captured. There is one where Churchill is sitting in a room, and a bright red light shines on him during the speech. It’s amazing how Wright’s use of light adds to the power of the speech that Churchill is saying in that moment. Another standout scene and one that will probably be the most talked about moment in Darkest Hour is the subway scene. As Churchill begins to question whether or not he should try to form a peace agreement with Hilter, he takes to the public to ask their opinion. There is something so special about seeing a person of power sitting amongst the people and asking them how they feel and getting to know them personally. Certainly, this is not a common practice among world leaders which is what makes this moment such a remarkable one.
Joe Wright’s direction is superb. While most of the film is all about the performance, Wright makes sure that his direction stands out on its own. Whether it is his choice of lighting or a particular angle in which he films an individual scene, Wright adds to the film using the camera to elevate the performance.
Darkest Hour is Joe Wright’s best film and will certainly earn him an Oscar nomination. Gary Oldman has never been better and he can consider himself the winner of that Oscar because I highly doubt there will be a better performance this year. Darkest Hour is a fascinating character piece that will leave you wanting more. It is without question one of the best films of the year.