Gary Oldman’s finest hour?

Gary Oldman as Winston Churchill in Darkest Hour. Oldman is superb and now an Oscar-nominee after talking the Golden Globe, Critics’ Choice and Screen Actors Guild award for his performance.

The acclaimed Darkest Hour, a portrait of Winston Churchill, offering a fictionalised account of his early days as the British Prime Minister, and focusing on him trying to convince his peers and the British people not to surrender to Hitler’s Nazis, is nominated for six Oscars. BILLY SUTER reports.

WIDELY acclaimed and starring Gary Oldman, giving the performance of his career, as many reviewers have noted, Darkest Hour is a gripping drama that has raked in six Oscar nominations – for best film, lead actor (Oldman), production design, costume design, cinematography,  and makeup and hairstyling.

Also featuring Stephen Dillane, Lily James, Ben Mendelsohn and Kristin Scott Thomas, the movie details how, within days of becoming Prime Minister of Great Britain, Churchill had to face one of his most turbulent and defining trials: exploring a negotiated peace treaty with Nazi Germany, or standing firm to fight for the ideals, liberty and freedom of a nation.

As the unstoppable Nazi forces roll across Western Europe and the threat of invasion is imminent, and with an unprepared public, a skeptical king and his own party plotting against him, Churchill must withstand his darkest hour, rally a nation, and attempt to change the course of world history.

Directed with flair and elegance by Joe Wright, who gave us Pride and Prejudice, Atonement and Hanna, Darkest Hour is of most note for the astonishing performance by Oldman as Churchill.

Oldman’s performance has already won him a Golden Globe, Critics’ Choice and Screen Actors’ Guild award, and he is likely to be a shoo-in to take the Oscar in March.

Lily James as Elizabeth Layton and Gary Oldman as Winston Churchill in director Joe Wright’s Darkest Hour, a Focus Features release. Picture; Jack English/Focus Features.

The physical transformation is uncanny, so very little surprise that the film is also a strong contender for the Oscar for makeup and hair.

Variety, reviewing the film, noted that one of its strong points is that “this talky yet stunningly cinematic history lesson balances the great orator’s public triumphs with more vulnerable private moments of self-doubt”, going on to add that “Oldman makes him human, and his performance gives us ample room to re-evaluate the iconic figure”.

A glowing, four-star review by Dan Jolin in Empire magazine states that “Wright himself should be applauded, too, for imbuing this verbose, interior-rooted narrative with such visual flair. Britain’s halls of power are lit in a gorgeously noirish style, while one remarkable motif sees Churchill repeatedly boxed in by literal ink-black darkness, whether in a void-ascending lift or framed by the leaded glass of a closed door”.

I particularly enjoyed moments where Wright takes his camera from close-up to way up high, most notably in a war scene focusing on soldiers being bombed, the camera travelling, in one shot, from out of a tent to high above the planes that drop the bombs.

There is also a memorable scene in which a young boy looks skywards, and peers, through one eye, at a war plane he views through his fingers curled, telescope-like, into a circle. He then wipes out the view of the plane by turning his fingers into a fist.

One thought on “Gary Oldman’s finest hour?

  1. We saw this film on Friday night at Gateway and I have to say it kept us spellbound. The use of the English language and the acting was just outstanding. Gary Oldman was superb. Kristin Scott Thomas I thought wasn’t so great as Clementine Churchill, in fact she irked me a bit, but that really was a side issue. Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant!
    Ben Mendelsohn as King George VI was also really good as was Lily James as Elizabeth Layton.


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