With Awards season in full swing now, one performance that has been gathering a lot of acclaim is Gary Oldman's unrecognisable turn as Winston Churchill in Joe Wright's Darkest Hour. Here's my review of the film.

Given that this is a film being talked about for its performances, that perhaps seems like as good a place as any to start and, whilst Oldman is certainly the star here, Darkest Hour offers up a whole plethora of compelling and wholly impressive work from its entire cast. From Ben Mendelsohn's King George VI to Lily James as Elizabeth Layton, Churchill's personal secretary, and Kristen Scott Thomas as his wife, Clemmie, everyone brought their A-game and felt like a necessary addition to the overarching narrative, albeit if sometimes pushed a little to the sidelines and used more to surround our leading man and push HIS story rather than their own - this can perhaps be said for George and Clemmie's addition to the film, more so than Layton who feels more concrete in the grander scheme of things, developing a touching dynamic with Churchill.

Of course, as mentioned already, this may be Churchill's 'darkest hour' but it's certainly Oldman's finest; a vehicle for a man history has come to know - who is at the very core of this story and this film - and the performance is simply astonishing; donning a lot of heavy prosthetics, the actor disappears into the role, embodying Churchill's physicality unlike ever before but also his headspace too and his mannerisms, giving off that WC bravado that history has come to tell the tale of. This is a performance so good that we forget we're watching an actor and just see Churchill himself at work here - exactly the snappy, explosive yet firm and wise cigar-chomping man he was. But, moreover, it's a film that isn't afraid to show him in his moments of ponder and shows his more reflective, more pensive nature when he struggled with such inner trepidation at the hands of his counterparts (a riveting game of "cat and mouse" with foreign secretary Viscount Halifax (Stephen Dillane) is amongst the highlights) and it's perhaps these quieter moments that are amongst some of the film's best. It's genuinely jaw-dropping work and is sure to earn Gary Oldman every Award under the sun... but deservedly so.
In fact, this is perhaps something that can be said about the entire film itself. Whilst Joe Wright certainly infuses that cinematic flavour into the proceedings - the story of which follows Churchill as he has been newly appointed as Prime Minister, at a time when he struggles with the decision to enter into a peace treaty with Hitler or push on the fight against all odds - it's pulled off with such authenticity that it feels like we are just watching history repeat itself and re-living that time and those events alongside Churchill. Yet, it never feels boring or slow with every scene feeling necessary in either furthering the narrative or really letting the performances and characters soak up the screen. Anthony McCarten's screenplay is compelling for such reason, it's a period piece by nature, but a gripping political thriller in execution. Wright's direction of the screenplay feels calculated, with a taut orchestration of timing, editing and narrative-building to create a wholly immersive piece. It's lavish in its design too, so effortlessly conveying its 1940s setting and the cinematography on display is absolutely gorgeous - DP Bruno Delbonnel makes use of a lot of wides to convey a sense of scale to the proceedings; all so beautifully shot too - with a very polished, almost-noir visual palette that bleeds style.

Back to back with Christopher Nolan's also impressive "war film that's not really a war film but so much more" Dunkirk from last year, Joe Wright's "war film that's not really a war film but so much more" Darkest Hour show that we're currently in a time where history is coming back with a bite, more relevant and urgent than ever but with the films better than ever too - the pair would make one hell of a double bill. I often find the genre of historical biopics one to be grating, usually struggling to balance the line of honouring fact and truth but also still being a good film. Joe Wright's Darkest Hour gets it just right, delivering a story that feels grounded and real but also one that makes for a thoroughly riveting political thriller and character study. It's enthralling and sublime, lusciously crafted and sweeping, and all grounded by a performance for the ages in Gary Oldman's Winston Churchill - a turn that will leave no gobs unsmacked and no Awards unattained. A fine, fine hour indeed.

Darkest Hour is an utterly enthralling character-study; it's intense, sublime, heartfelt, and thrilling, all whilst anchored by Gary Oldman's astonishing Churchill - a performance that will leave no gobs unsmacked and no Awards unattained.

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About the Author

Awais Irfan
Founder of Oasis Awais, and avid lover of life, Awais Irfan's love of writing and film is unequivocal. Ever since he was a little kid, he has loved the cinematic experience; so much so, he is studying Film Production in Glasgow and hopes to be the next "big thing" in directing.

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