Director: Joe Wright
Nominated for: Best Picture; Best Actor; Best Hair and Makeup; Best Costume; Best Cinematography; Best Production Design
First off – I’m British and very proud of that fact. Darkest Hour is a brilliant film that made me so much prouder to be British – it’s about arguably one of the most recognisable characters in British history so the expectation to be a good film was enormous. It more than lived up to those expectations!
Darkest Hour actually deals with a tiny period of time within World War II, the lead up to Operation Dynamo, the evacuation of Dunkirk – but it is such a divisive period; it’s the turning point of the War. And I actually came out of the cinema having learnt something about the War – I never knew about the importance of the Calais garrison in the success of Dunkirk. But then that was a massive defeat and we didn’t necessarily want to remember that fact. However I feel that this does a disservice to all those men who gave the ultimate sacrifice when asked of them in order to save others.
The cinematography is brilliant – it’s very clever. There are a lot of bird’s-eye shots. I particularly love the scene that moves seamlessly from a bombed out France into the face of a dead soldier – bit morbid I know but it’s actually rather beautifully shot. Darkest Hour seems to share a similar colour scheme to The King’s Speech (Tom Hooper, 2010). And that wasn’t the only comparison I drew with The King’s Speech – just like that film this one ends right at a really pivotal moment, the launch of Operation Dynamo, which I found quite unsatisfying. Luckily I had Dunkirk on my list of nominated films to watch. The moment you saw the little ships heading off to Dunkirk gave me literal goosebumps – there is something magical about knowing the incredible feat they manage to pull off!
Darkest Hour just highlighted how very lucky we were to have Churchill come into power when he did. It could have been a very, very different outcome should Halifax have succeeded instead. Man, Halifax was a spineless little shit (excuse my French!!) there is nothing about him that endears him to me at all. He has read the whole situation completely wrong so thank goodness Churchill was there to set him straight! But then hindsight is a wonderful thing.
It’s always difficult to take well-known historical characters and do them justice. The hair and makeup in Darkest Hour is outstanding. While they may not have got King George VI’s voice right they certainly got the look right. The development of Churchill and Bertie’s relationship is an interesting one that shows just how strained it was to begin with. Likewise the team managed to make Ronald Pickup look remarkably like Neville Chamberlain.
Kristin Scott Thomas is wonderful as Clemmie Churchill. You got the impression that she really was a rock to Churchill and provided him necessary boosts to confidence when everything rested on his shoulders. However, she doesn’t take any rubbish from him either. Gary Oldman is outstanding as Churchill – he’s one of those actors that completely embodies whichever character he is playing and this one is no different. It’s as if Churchill has come back to life on-screen. It must have been an incredibly lonely job especially given that he was trying to fight against almost everyone else in Parliament at an extremely pivotal time during the War. This leaves him very isolated and has been reflected in the cinematography with him often being framed by himself or being the only one in a certain type of lighting.
I was kind of hoping that Darkest Hour would do well at the BAFTAS because as much as I found this film amazing I have a feeling that the Americans just won’t get it in the same way. It’s not a part of their history – it’s not even a part of their war yet as they don’t enter WWII until almost a full year later in 1941 – so I don’t think that emotional connection will be there. So I was relying on BAFTAS to recognise it for the great British film it is – both in terms of story and production … but that didn’t really happen thanks to Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (Martin McDonagh) actually being considered a British movie due to its production. I also think this is one of, if not, the best performances I’ve ever seen Gary Oldman give and really believe it could be his year at the Oscars – but he is up against Daniel Day-Lewis and we all know how infatuated the Academy is with him and I wouldn’t be surprised if he pips Best Actor tonight.