Darkest Hour Screen 78 of 8 reviews

Darkest Hour

2017

Darkest Hour Poster
  • What Joe does with “Darkest Hour” is make a big screen experience that could be a chamber piece in other hands. He creates room for great actors (and not just a formidable Gary Oldman) to do sterling work and gives this historical chapter a style and form that befits both the past and the present.

  • I’ve been trying to think when there was a historical drama I found as electrifying as Joe Wright’s “Darkest Hour.” It may have been Steven Spielberg’s “Munich”. . . . They are very different films, of course, and it could be that Wright’s boasts stellar accomplishments in more departments. While Gary Oldman’s phenomenal work as Winston Churchill had been heralded in advance, it is astonishingly equaled by the film’s achievements in direction, screenwriting, score and cinematography.

  • Wright has returned to the kind of filmmaking that put him on the map: Taking serious, potentially somber material and reinventing it for the screen through intricate, inventive cinematic technique. (At times, it feels like we’re watching a musical, even though nobody sings in the film.)

  • As the camera follows Oldman’s portly bulldog Churchill chugging through his claustrophobic War Rooms, Wright’s ace cinematographer, Bruno Delbonnel, matches the fluidity and impact of his trench-warfare shots in Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s A Very Long Engagement. He and Wright pull off some striking coups de cinema, including a single Steadicam take that connects the British garrison in Calais to the German bombers about to blast it to smithereens.

  • It excels whenever Wright isolates Churchill in suffocating spaces where he seeks counsel from those in his inner circle, but mostly has to marinate in crisis. The film is particularly good at showing how information about the hour-by-hour fates of thousands is filtered down to Churchill in a way that makes his decisions seem more abstract, because he cannot bear witness to the history he's so crucial in shaping.

  • The baroque competence of Joe Wright, the director who never met a camera movement he couldn’t overwork, makes Darkest Hour one of the more enjoyable entries in the endless, post-King’s Speech cycle of mannered prestige biopics; it turns out there is something of an art to these things. But no amount of distancing effects or overhead shots—each suggestive of nothing beyond the formicating movement of humans at war—can elevate the film above hagiography.

  • In spite of these intriguing personality clashes, Darkest Hour never presents Churchill with a real intellectual challenge, and so the treatment of this important historical figure remains underdeveloped. Like most biopics, Wright’s film fancies itself a considered portrait of Churchill’s full range as a human being even though it goes about vigorously sanding away any truly upsetting aspect of his persona to ensure that no serious doubts are raised about his greatness.

  • The film apportions the wages of war more to the bathtub than the battlefield, an act of evasion that could paradoxically elicit a delayed political sting if it didn’t instead augur a loaded sequence in which a naïve Churchill must stoop to riding the London Underground. . . . Whether such biopic theatricality is considered victorious or merely up-your-bum will depend on where you’re coming from, Anglophile or cinephile alike.

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