On first seeing the trailer for Joe Wright’s Darkest Hour, I knew that it was going to be a mandatory watch for no other reason than Gary Oldman. Although Oldman delivers for the most part, the rest of the film falls flat.
Darkest Hour is the kind of film that contains some compelling performances and sporadic shots that impress, yet still fails to combine these elements to create a true masterpiece. Ben Mendelsohn is a quiet and understated King George VI, proving once again his tremendous ability as an actor. Ronald Pickup is also good as Neville Chamberlain, but it is Stephen Dillane’s performance as Viscount Halifax that is the most superb of the supporting cast.
As with Mendelsohn’s performance, Dillane’s Halifax is a strikingly calm and chilling adversary to Winston Churchill. And even though we know how things are going to work out, Dillane pulls us in and keeps us on the edge, wondering if Churchill is going to survive the setbacks.
Kristin Scott Thomas’ portrayal of Clementine Churchill is strong, but all to brief.
Now to Oldman. He’s terrific as Winston Churchill because he’s Gary Oldman, but the performance wasn’t anywhere near his best work. Some of that may have been Joe Wright not taking full advantage of Oldman’s talents, especially during two scenes in particular that were anything but the inspiring moments they should have been. And one of those scenes probably didn’t even happen in real life. That’s not necessarily bothersome, but poetic license should at the very least be effective when used.
Oldman won the Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama on Sunday night, and he’s probably the frontrunner for Best Actor at the Academy Awards. Although I’ll be incredibly happy if Oldman finally wins an Oscar, I’ll be disappointed that he will have won it for something other than his far superior performance as George Smiley in the also-superior film Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.
To sum up: Darkest Hour is a film you can probably wait to see in the comfort of your own home, and if you want to be truly blown away by Gary Oldman…watch almost anything else that he did in previous years.