Hitler has invaded Czechoslovakia, Poland, Denmark, and Norway. 3 million German troops are now poised on the Belgian border, ready to conquer the rest of Europe. In Britain, parliament has lost faith in its leader, Neville Chamberlain (Ronald Pickup – The Mission, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel). The search for a replacement has already begun…
There is only one man who the opposition will accept to head the coalition government – Winston Churchill (Gary Oldman – The Dark Knight, Bram Stoker’s Dracula). Despite his age, Churchill is selected. King George VI (Ben Mendelsohn – Rogue One, The Dark Knight Rises) is not supportive of the selection. Undaunted Churchill, who has dedicated his entire life to public service, forms a war cabinet.
The first speech he makes in parliament is well-received. It is about waging war and victory at any cost. Chamberlain, who has recently found out he has cancer, and Halifax (Stephen Dillane – The Hours, Spy Game) are plotting Churchill’s removal due to his refusal to negotiate a peace with Hitler.
Things are not going well in France for the British, Churchill insists that France must be saved. Everyone is perplexed by his behaviour – opposition, allies, etc. He drinks too much and is often in bad humour. In his first speech to the British people he does not tell the truth, but inspires. Comes up with a plan to evacuate Dunkirk which would sacrifice thousands of British soldiers at Calais.
Belgium falls. England prepares to be invaded. Halifax is still pushing to negotiate peace. King George VI debates fleeing with his family to Canada. As Hitler’s army nears the United Kingdom, it is up to Winston Churchill to decide between negotiating peace or fighting against impossible odds. To find out what the British people want to do Churchill speaks to the people.
Most film fans have acknowledged that Gary Oldman is a good actor. After turns in films like Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Sid and Nancy, True Romance, The Fifth Element, and the Harry Potter series, he has demonstrated himself to be a fine character actor. It is in Joe Wright’s (Pride & Prejudice, Atonement) Darkest Hour that he has cemented his stature. In this film, despite the fact that you know that it is Oldman as Churchill you forget it. You cannot see Oldman there on the screen. He is Churchill. That is how good the makeup and his acting is. Totally worthy of his Oscar win.
Powerful and inspirational. Wright’s film really immerses you into the moment. Covering just one month in British history it is intense. You are really immersed into what was happening moment by moment. You feel the pressure everyone was under. Especially Churchill. Widely seen as the darkest period of British history. Churchill was the bright light. He was the one leader in Europe who never considered surrendering to the madman who wanted to control all of Europe. The one who stayed strong. Even while others within his own country doubted him and his way.
This is a film with not much action. It is mostly dialogue. Director Wright manages to make it riveting nonetheless. He is a director who has been able to capture and recreate eras accurately. Pulls back the curtains on the backroom politics happening in Britain at this important time. Political junkies will be riveted. The rest of us will learn plenty.
-Gary Oldman: Becoming Churchill
-Feature Commentary with Director Joe Wright