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Darkest Hour

History is often written by the victors. If the losers are worthy adversaries then they receive recognition too. The Second World War had many winners and losers with both marking their place in history. One of the ‘winners’ was British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, whose stoic presence galvanized a nation. ‘Darkest Hour’ explores the early months of Britain’s leader. Showing his strengths and weaknesses in equal measure, the war-time leader’s struggles are starkly revealed in an engaging film.

Winston Churchill (Gary Oldman) faces a dire threat. Beginning his Prime Ministership of Great Britain in 1940, he leads a country at war. Battling the German Nazi invasion and doubters in his own cabinet, it’s Churchill’s task to unite a quickly fracturing nation and political party. With his wife Clementine (Kristin Scott Thomas) and King George (Ben Mendelsohn) looking on, Churchill is determined to become the leader his country needs in times of great crisis.

‘Darkest Hour’ gives much for Gary Oldman to sink his acting teeth into. A consummate performer, he successfully embodies Churchill’s determined strength. Whilst occasionally you feel you’re watching Oldman and not the role he’s playing, he provides enough emotional weight to a multi-faceted person. He is ably supported by Scott Thomas and Mendelsohn who give excellent performances. They could have been given more to do however as ‘Darkest Hour’ rests a little too much on Oldman’s shoulders despite his solid performance.

Joe Wright directs with a steady assurance making this history lesson absorbing. Unlike other Churchill biopics, ‘Darkest Hour’ explores the domestic political drama of his early reign rather than the plight of those on the battlefields. This enables a better understanding of Churchill’s actions and why he fought resolutely against the scourge of advancing evil. The script’s factual and fictional elements are reasonably blended well even if the latter veers towards fanciful sentimentality negating some authenticity.

Although having occasional ‘flag-waving nationalism’ which becomes a bit irritating, ‘Darkest Hour’ has much to commend. It differentiates itself from similar movies and has a great lead in Oldman. ‘Darkest Hour’ gives better insight into the Churchill enigma whose refusal to surrender to destructive forces is a lesson politicians of all persuasions still should learn.

Rating out of 10: 7

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