Monday, December 25, 2017

Darkest Hour

Movie Name: Darkest Hour
Year of Release: 2017
Director: Joe Wright
Stars: Gary Oldman, Kristin Scott Thomas, Lily James, Ben Mendelsohn, Ronald Pickup, Stephen Dillane, Samuel West, Nicholas Jones, Richard Lumsden, Malcolm Storry
Genre: Drama
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 5
View Trailer

Following the poor reception of "Pan", director Joe Wright has returned with another period piece, focused on a well known personality, the esteemed Winston Churchill. The film focuses specifically on the first month Churchill was in power. We are introduced to the narrative, as current British prime minister Neville Chamberlain is removed from his position, following his inability to deal with the Nazi forces taking over Europe, and the impending World War. Upon Churchill's nomination, one of his first herculean tasks, is getting the British troops out of Dunkirk, where they are under siege, without much opportunity to escape. Churchill's spirit and personality, guide him through the challenges and political machinations he must face in order to move onward and prepare the country to pending war that is looming.
One of the biggest issues with "Darkest Hour" is the fact that it makes most of the interactions of the lead character with all the supporting ones, through a series of speeches (therefore rendering most of the supporting characters, mostly passive voices). The film, which contains beautiful stylistic approaches from the director, can't hide the fact that at its core, is illustrating some very dire circumstances in the history of Humanity. However, whenever it tries to humanize the central character, it always puts that same character pontificating, talking at others, as opposed to having discussions or even dialogs with others. It makes for a rather repetitive and tedious approach to a personality, who should be fascinating in itself. There isn't much grasp to what Churchill was effectively going through, since all we glimpse are his interminable speech writing, and walking through corridors, always smoking and drinking (it's surprising he simply didn't die from all the alcohol and smoke poisoning he must have ingested, as the film suggests). For all the elegance and good taste that the director has always had, there's a somewhat stunted approach to this material, that lacks finesse, particularly when outlining the life of someone as charismatic as Winston Churchill - there's never a particular point of view into what made him unique, and his most humanizing factor, ends up being his wife, played by the stoic Kristin Scott Thomas, who sadly has nothing much to do. For all his virtuosity, it's hard not to look at Gary Oldman's performance, as a calculated risk to win an award, when he has deserved more so, for far more subtle work he has done in his career. The cinematography from Bruno Delbonnel is stupendous, as is the score from Dario Marianelli. A minor film from an interesting director.