Emily Parker reviews the Winston Churchill biopic.

Darkest Hour

I went into watching this film having only days previously finally sat down and watched Christopher Nolan's Dunkirk, which was released last year. Having watched the two films so closely together I really appreciated being able to see the other side of what Churchill and the Government were facing.

Darkest Hour follows the true life events of when Winston Churchill was made Prime Minister, following the resignation of Neville Chamberlain. In May 1940 Churchill is faced with some big decisions, which inevitably shaped his leadership as he began to fight for the freedom of the nation. The film begins showing how the Nazi's were near to closing the gap across Western Europe and the threat of invasion was high. Is he popular among the cabinet and the people? No. Churchill has to get his own party, the king and the public on his side and rally them all to understand the Britain he wants to see as he starts to change history.

If you, like I, don't know some of the early decisions that Churchill had to make when he came into power, you will see a man who battles between choosing what is right and what is easy, when Britain was facing huge potential losses. The film gives a very emotional perspective on what this position of leadership can be like, when so much is at stake, and how much sits on one person's shoulders when you have authority.

Churchill has been played by numerous actors previously including, Albert Finney, Timothy Spall, and John Lithgow. No disrespect to them, but this performance by Gary Oldman is remarkable and makes him stand out in a class of his own. If you follow an actor and wish to see them doing their craft to the best of their ability, then this is Oldman's best to date. He brings a very gritty, humorous, yet emotional portrayal of Churchill, showing more of who the man is, during the most historically significant moments of his life. Mention also has to be given to the incredible makeup and costume. Oldman himself is unrecognisable.

Oldman alongside Kristin Scott Thomas, who plays Winston's wife Clemmie, present the more private moments when Churchill is filled with doubt, fear and a vulnerability so often kept behind closed doors. The struggle they go through as they walk each intense and uncertain day reminds you of the human side of the man who became the face of the war in Britain. It shows you the invaluable support Clemmie was and Kristin Scott Thomas shows her as being strong-minded, integrous and the glue holding Winston together.

Churchill is often quoted for having said, "We shall not flag or fail. We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender." Watching Darkest Hour and hearing quotes like this, puts a different perspective and understanding on historical events. Having people who are strong leaders who can make tough decisions is ultimately still needed today and will continue to be needed in the years to come.

Will this be the bait to scoop Oldman well deserving awards? With nominations coming from every angle, the last award left to be potentially collected is Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role at the Oscars. The same accolade has already been won at the Golden Globes and for Leading Actor at the BAFTAs. Other Oscar nominations currently include Best Motion Picture of the Year. It was also good to see Kristen Scott Thomas recognised in her BAFTA nomination as Best Supporting Actress.

Damaris Media create free film resources for community groups, to discuss the major themes in a film. The resources for Darkest Hour is made in partnership with SSAFA, the Armed Forces charity. It begins with a backdrop to this true story and as well as an appreciated nod to Churchill's wife before a selection of reflective questions. You can download the Darkest Hour discussion guide via the Damaris website or via the SSAFA website. CR

The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.