Darkest Hour, fine film-making

Image resultI made one of my infrequent trips to the cinema last night, being tempted by what I’d heard about “Darkest Hour”.

And I’m glad I saw it.

Overall, I found it very entertaining, interesting, engaging, and well-acted. I also had fun spotting familiar faces in the supporting cast and extras, male actors I knew from TV shows and films.

I don’t know exactly how accurate it is in strictly historical terms, but I suspect it’s safe to assume it’s a mixture of fact, fiction, and fictionalised versions of fact. I assume it must have been, because real life doesn’t usually provide such a good and consistent narrative!

The film starts the day before Churchill was summoned by the King to be invited to form a government, and ends with his “we will fight on the beaches” speech to the House of Commons, a period of just a few weeks. I’d never appreciated how tricky it must have been for Churchill to establish himself politically after taking office, and his doing this provides the tension and drama to the storyline.

I thought Gary Oldman was outstanding. His Churchill seemed like a real person, with moments of doubt as he struggled to establish himself, with a plausible private life (Kristin Scott Thomas made an excellent Clementine Churchill), and a fondness for the odd drink. Gary’s portrayal conveyed Churchill’s mannerisms and speech patterns beautifully. His delivery of some of the speeches was simply inspiring. I know good actors can deliver good writing well, but Gary Oldman delivered very familiar words in a way which had me on the edge of my seat, eager to hear him.

Viewed as a story, I found it pretty well-written. The story started engagingly by showing us Churchill’s new secretary Elizabeth Layton (Lily James) being dropped into the deep end and having a pretty awful first day. Her character plays a useful role in much of the film, when the story moves to Churchill himself. Both characters start off in difficult situations and grow as they deal with the problems.

I recommend it highly. It’s worth seeing on the big screen, rather than waiting for it to be on DVD and streaming services.