Gary Oldman as Winston Churchill. Now that’s a casting decision I’d never have seen coming. I mean, he doesn’t look like him. He doesn’t sound like him. How could it ever work?
I can’t deny that part of the fascination of seeing this film was to see how on earth they transformed Oldman into the legendary British wartime leader, but he pulls it off, and impressively so.
I soon stopped wondering how uncomfortable the fatsuit must have been to wear and started wondering how Churchill was going to get on with winning that damn war… not the one against Hitler, but the one with his opponents in Parliament most of whom didn’t seem all that keen on having old Winston taking the reins at all.
The behind the scenes chicanery and political manoeuvring is well portrayed and it does leave you wondering what might have happened if those who opposed Churchill’s rise to the premiership in 1940 and his public rallying call to ‘never surrender’ to Nazi Germany had won the day.
The film also reveals the conflicts within Churchill himself and Oldman portrays the vulnerabilities and the moments of doubt with a skill that makes the outward bombast and the iconic, theatrical speechifying all the more impressive.
The stirring words still have the power to send shivers down your spine and, considering we know the outcome of the war after Dunkirk, there is still a surprising amount of tension throughout the film as the moment of destiny approaches and the political disagreements that preceded it play out on screen.
Perhaps we do spend too much time looking back at these heroic moments of our past than is good for us. But aside from the warm nostalgic glow of a past triumph that most of us watching never lived through, maybe we should also lament that a character such as Churchill was very much of his time, and we will never see the like again.
How would he have fared in the age of intensive and intrusive media scrutiny and daily trial by Twitterstorm and social media? With all his undoubted faults and foibles, would his turbulent political career have even lasted long enough to make it through to this particular Darkest Hour?
Read more about Darkest Hour on IMDB.com