After Dunkirk it was only natural to watch the second World War Two film up for nomination this year.
The Darkest Hour shows not the battle itself but the battle going on behind the scene. The focus is on the older men at home who control the war and the war waging in the Houses of Parliament. Churchill is made prime minister as Europe is on the brink of falling to the unstoppable Nazi machine. His party does not support him and seem more preoccupied with ousting him than fighting the Nazis, the British Army is cornered at Dunkirk without means of escape and country after country is falling.
Gary Oldman is stunning. If he does not win best actor it will break my heart. Almost unrecognisable in his prosthetics, everything about him is Churchill. You can truly see him carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders. There is the saddest scene when he is on the phone to Roosevelt and essentially begging him for help from the USA and we can see an almost broken Churchill trying not to let the despair burst out of him. Then on the other hand there are the inevitable scenes of triumph of strength, him shouting at his war cabinet demanding they find a way to fight, and off course his rousing speech to parliament rallying the nation. An alcoholic, old man with a short temper put in an impossible position yet a great and wonderful man, this film shows all of him the public and the private, the strong and the weak.
This film is thrilling, even if we know how it ends, and perhaps that is part of the reason why it’s so thrilling, because the decisions made in this film changed the world. As the dates go by in giant writing on the screen we feel the tension build and Churchill’s despair deepening. Despite its focus being on the government we still get some fantastic and heartbreaking glimpses of the battle in France, including a stunning aerial shot of the fighting which fades into a fallen soldier. It is a political and historical drama but it is also a war film.
Here we have film making at its finest, so beautifully shot, every scene pulls us in and makes hearts pound, brains whir and tears well up. This is a fantastic piece of cinema.