Film Review: Darkest Hour

Review by Dash Wilson.

In May 1940, the opposition Labour Party in parliament demands the resignation of British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain (Ronald Pickup). The Nazi takeover of Europe has gained distinct momentum and the British Expeditionary Force is trapped in Dunkirk and Calais, while an invasion of England by the German army is imminent.  

Based on real events, Darkest Hour is a film about Winston Churchill, played by a nearly unrecognisable Gary Oldman, and how his controversial ways changed the course of World War II and ultimately the future of a nation of which he became Prime Minister.

Directed by period-piece master Joe Wright (Pride & Prejudice, Atonement, Anna Karenina), Darkest Hour successfully pairs Wright with cinematographer Bruno Delbonnel AFC ASC (Inside Llewyn Davis, Dark Shadows) to create a rousing story that somehow overcomes the familiarity of the material. Shot using extreme amounts of natural light but with dark interiors, this intelligent use of contrast brings to life the words of the strange but deeply compelling Churchill. The climatic, redemptive speech of the film is a visual feast that quite literally shines the light on the juxtaposition of the man who at first tried to hide himself but slowly transformed the darkness of a nation.

There is little doubt that Darkest Hour is Gary Oldman’s film and one that will likely win him the Oscar (even though that honour should go to Timothée Chalamet in Call me by your name). With any other actor in the lead role it would be considered a standard genre piece but because of Oldman’s memorable transformation the entire film is elevated to one of the best films of the year.

Reviewing all five films nominated for the Academy Award for Best Cinematography in 2018, Dash Wilson is a film-lover based in Brisbane and is the resident Film Critic for Australian Cinematographer Magazine.

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