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Darkest Hour  : The Dilemma Preceding Decision
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Friday, January 26, 2018
Thriller / Drama
Joe Wright
Gary Oldman, Ben Mendelsohn, Kristin Scott Thomas

When a leader is bent upon standing up to a warring bully but those around him nudge him towards a peace pact, the weighty problem stoops his shoulders.

 

And so it is with Gary Olden as the much-burdened Winston Churchill. The Nazis are stomping with all their might through France. Britain is the next stop. Should Churchill roar back even if it means war? That’s the battle raging outside. Inside is the King who didn’t want Churchill as the Prime Minister. He even wipes his royal hand immediately after Churchill has held it like a man repulsed.

 

Before Churchill can decide whether Britain should cower and move for peace or stand up and face Hitler, Foreign Secretary Halifax manipulates him into a corner with an ultimatum. Broker peace with Hitler and stop the daily loss of British soldiers being massacred in Calais and Dunkirk. Or, there’s a plot brewing against Churchill.

 

‘The people need to be led, not misled,’ says the King to him. ‘The King as usual gave me a royal rap on the knuckles,’ Churchill reports to his wife Clementine. She’s the one who’s soothing, giving him the courage to continue.

 

Ultimately, it isn’t wife or political rivals but the common touch that gives Churchill a solution.There’s relief from the confines of the war room or his house whenhe takes an unexpectedly refreshing step outside. Into the underground which Churchill doesn’t even know to use. To hear the voice of his people.

 

Being a page of actual World War history, director Joe Wright keeps it real. To the extent that it often comes off more like a stage play where Churchill is thundering his lines before a live audience instead of speaking to the camera. The noise oscillates between the verbosity that articulates the quandary he’s in and his secretary’s manual typewriter. Anthony McCarten’s script packs in all the eccentricity that’s become legendary including giving dictation from his bathtub. Given the popularity of Netflix’s series The Crown, it’s a Churchill that we’ve all become familiar with. Additionally, Christopher Nolan’s recent outing Dunkirk dwelt on the evacuation. The major new takeaway that Joe Wright serves is therefore Churchill’s precarious situation before making his choice.

 

Gary Oldman is at his dramatic best in a one-man show as Churchill with prosthetic jowls. But the presence of Lily James as his pretty typist doesn’t go unnoticed.

 

For a film that adds to the cinematic archive of British war history, Darkest Hour gets a 3* rating.

 

Reviewed by
Bharathi S Pradhan

Senior Journalist & Author
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