Movie Review : Darkest Hour (2017)
The Academy cannot go a single year without nominating a World War II movie for the Oscar for Best Picture. This year, we have two for the price of one, with Christopher Nolan's sneaky good Dunkirk and Joe Wright's Darkest Hour, the mandatory nominee that no one has actually seen. The two films are an eerily good fit as companion pieces because they're narrating the same events from different perspectives. While it's not reinventing the wheel, Darkest Hour is more interesting than your boilerplate WWII movie because it's not just a WII movie.
Let's examine this statement.
Darkest Hour is the story of Winston Churchill's (played by Gary Oldman in a latex fat suit) first couple months as the Prime Minister of United Kingdom leading to Operation Dynamo (which is what Dunkirk is about). Surrounded with spineless politicians who are looking to take the diplomatic route to avoid Adolf Hitler's imperialist push through Europe, Churchill is met with a lot of adversity. And you may be someone who got in trouble over writing something stupid on social media or freakin' Winston Churchill, when people doubt your character, it makes you doubt yourself.
I enjoyed Darkest Hour mostly because it uses historical revisionism in order to say something that's pertinent right here and right now. Sometimes, criticism doesn't matter even if it's rooted in common sense. United Kingdom has every reason to negotiate a treaty with Germany given the military situation, but Winston Churchill just couldn't get himself to give in to fucking Nazis of all people. So, he persevered until he found support and the British resisted on the front lines for the entire war. I doubt anything in Anthony McCarten's screenplay happened the way it happened in real life, but it makes a strong point about today, where we are more exposed to useless criticism than ever.
Darkest Hour is a little too melodramatic to be great, though. There are a lot of scenes that consist in Winston Churchill drinking (or looking for a drink) and antagonizing dickless politicians and/or sulking in his living room. I've enjoyed his relationship to nurturing women like Clemmie (Kristin Scott Thomas) or Elizabeth Layton (the underrated Lily James) who kept his flame alive, but Darkest Hour is heavy on sulking and light on Winston Churchill kicking some fuckin' ass at the parliament. It becomes a problem when the satisfyinf payoff is way too short and neatly wrapped for all the bullshit we've endured alongside Churchill for close to two hours.
It's not because a point of view is wise at short term that it'll always be wise. Sometimes, the pragmatic and self-evident way out of a difficult situation need to be overruled by greater, more inspiring ideas. That is the legacy of Winston Churchill and Darkest Hour communicates it in a quite powerful manner. And most important, it uses revisionism to present an interesting counterpoint to our data-driven era: if sometimes common sense is not on your side, having common sense is to fight what common sense is telling you.
Does that make sense? If it doesn't, watch Darkest Hour. It'll be much clearer after.