Darkest Hour is set out as Gary Oldman’s greatest performance. The way it has been advertised and critiqued suggests that the film contains genuinely nothing else. And, of course, that’s a terrible way to look at a film, specifically one as interesting as Darkest Hour. With plenty of stylised moments, it’s actually a picture of true uniqueness.
Documenting the weeks leading up to D-Day, Winston Churchill (Gary Oldman) is brought in as Prime Minister just to appease the opposition. Whilst struggling to win over the Monarchy’s trust and gain the support of his own party, Churchill must negotiate the safety of 300,000 soldiers on the beaches of Dunkirk, whilst avoiding a peace deal with Hitler at all costs.
For a biopic, Darkest Hour comes across as wonderfully intuitive, as it shows how vital the days leading up to D-Day were for Britain. Director Wright shows this through his wonderful use of light, making Darkest Hour as visual as it is political. It’s an impressive feat and one that acts as a genuine asset for the film.
Yet it is Gary Oldman that does most of the talking for Darkest Hour. His performance is simply amazing, as he bounds through the Houses of Parliament as if they were a field of daisies. He contains so much energy and vigour within his Churchill that it becomes a mesmerising watch.
However, Winston Churchill was not this person. Churchill is not a character like MacBeth or Hamlet, he was a real man. And more than any other style, a true character needs a somewhat realistic personality. There is always artistic license to be had with any role, but Oldman changes the core of Winston Churchill, a feeling that just does not sit right.
He is incredible to watch, and Oldman’s unique take gives the film’s style a real boost, but it takes away a huge portion of its reality. It often feels less factual than it should and has an avoidable sense of fantasy about it. If Oldman had just played the role with slightly less enthusiasm, the film would have been utterly captivating.