TIFF Review: ‘Darkest Hour’ is a Great Companion Piece to ‘Dunkirk’

When we are introduced to Gary Oldman’s Winston Churchill, he is in bed, in the dark, wearing a hideous robe, drunk and basically unintelligible. There were momentary concerns at the beginning that Oldman’s slurring and bombastic portrayal of the legendary politician would go into serious scene chewing and over-the-top disaster. However, like the man himself, Oldman’s Churchill is revealed word by word and layer by layer, with Oldman disappearing deeper into the role until there is no trace of the actor left, there is only Winston Churchill. A role that has been played recently (and well) by a list of actors that includes Albert Finney, Brendon Gleeson, John Lithgow, Brian Cox and Timothy Spall. DARKEST HOUR may not be the definitive portrayal of the man, but it also could be. Oscar could finally come knocking for Gary Oldman here as his intense and layered performance becomes more powerful as it becomes smaller, more internalized.

Masterfully directed by Joe Wright, DARKEST HOUR is a gorgeous film to behold with cinematography, production design and wardrobe all pulling together a mythic atmosphere to a history well known. The film serves as a wonderful companion piece to Christopher Nolan’s DUNKIRK. With Nolan’s film portraying the beach and Wright’s film showing the administrative side of the war’s operations, especially surrounding the battle of Dunkirk. Oldman submerges into the role, disappearing by the final speech that we have seen glimpses of in the trailer. Thematically and structurally the film shares parallels with Tom Hooper’s THE KING’S SPEECH; a film that contains many of the same characters, settings and situations. Churchill’s skill as an orator is highly focused upon here, with the film outright stating that the man (Churchill) was one who “mobilized the English language and deployed it for battle.” A film that should resonate through awards season and for years to come, DARKEST HOUR is intense and haunting. A must see!

Review: 4/5