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There have been many renditions based on the life of British PM Winston Churchill. The man is now a legend as he was the only one who Hitler was scared off and who single-handedly boosted the confidence of the Britishers during the 2nd world war and led the allies to Victory. Gary Oldman takes over the role of cigar smoking, scotch drinking and cat lover Brit Prime Minister in Joe Wright's Darkest Hour.
The film takes place during the Second World War and focuses on Churchill's first couple of months at the office. Adolf Hitler and his Nazi forces have taken over a major part of Western Europe and now France has also fallen to the Swastika forces. The threat is looming over England and they don't have the planes or the men to defend their Island nation. A majority of their men are surrounded by Nazi forces in Dunkirk and they face sea on one side and the Hitler's forces on the other.
After the opposition's protest over Neville Chamberlain's (the current PM) poor leadership, the ruling party leaders decide that the best person for the job is Winston Churchill as he is the only leader who will be accepted by the opposition. Churchill is highly unpopular among the parliamentarians and leader of his own party due to his eccentricities as well his failure as Admiral during the Gallipoli war, his views on India and his support for King Edward VIII during the abdication crisis.
Churchill has to fight people from his own party who want to replace him so that they can sign a peace treaty with Hitler mediated by Italy but Churchill doesn't trust Hitler and his forces and was right all along about the Nazi advance. He also has to make a tough decision on sacrificing 4000 men so that over 300,000 men can come home safely from Dunkirk. After the current King decides to support him and knowing that the public wants to fight instead of surrendering and signing a peace treaty, he delivers a powerful speech in the parliament that unites both the leaders and the opposition and the country decides to fight.
Gary Oldman delivers the finest performance of his career as the man who had as many admirers as detractors. Portraying a historical person who has been such a divisive figure is a highly difficult task and it couldn't have been played by anyone else except Oldman who transformed himself into Churchill. The skinny actor had to put on a fat suit and had to spend over 200 hours on make-up and smoked over 400 cigars worth 20,000 USD. He perfected Churchill's traits, walk, the manner of speaking and most of all the humor.
The film benefits greatly from supporting actors such as Kristin Scott Thomas, Ben Mendelsohn, Stephen Dillane and Lily James who portray the characters of Clementine Churchill, King George VI, Edward Wood and Elizabeth Layton brilliantly. Oldman's scenes with Thomas, Dillane, and James are especially electrifying to watch.
The film thoroughly maintains its seriousness and the sense of urgency during the war days thanks to a terrific background score by Dario Marianelli. Joe Wright, who is known for directing historical films such as Pride & Prejudice, Atonement, and Anna Karenina once again, proves his mettle as a director well versed with European culture, events, and writing.
Darkest Hour is making all the right noises before the Oscars and winning numerous Best Actor Awards for its lead actor Gary Oldman who has delivered a career-best performance and it seems like this is the time he is finally going to take the coveted statue home.