Darkest Hour Before Gary Oldman

DATELINE:  Two Fine Hours

Oldman Churchill Oldman Churchill!

Gary Oldman had several makeup specialists to help him take on the dowdy appearance of an old reprobate as he played the gin-swilling, cigar-chomping temperamental British prime minister during World War II, the irascible Winston Churchill.

You might think he won Best Actor Oscar for his prosthetic achievement, but his performance is a gem—and you can almost forgive him for playing Commissioner Gordon in the Batman movies.

Joe Wright’s Churchill movie is quite different from the many others that have come and gone over the past few years. In the past you had Albert Finney, and in the distant past you had Timothy Spall and even Richard Burton. We could go on and on.

The latest version takes on a slightly different approach, lending itself to atmosphere, style, and a human touch. This Churchill’s worst enemies are his own conservative party members—and appeasing, peace at any price types who want to work things out with Hitler.

The film also takes the non-epic approach to the rescue of British soldiers at Dunkirk. That movie was the arch-rival to the Darkest Hour at the Oscars.

Kristen Scott Thomas plays wife Clemmie and Lily James does a turn as Churchill’s private secretary, but make no mistake, the bull in the china shop is Oldman, almost unrecognizable and totally convincing, perhaps with the performance of his life.

The film puts its focus on a short time when Churchill had to convince the public, and his King, that he was the man for the job. A couple of bravura scenes make the film well-worth the time, in which Churchill challenges himself to ride the subway to find how the common citizens feel, and his stirring speech that set Hitler on the road to ruin.

You can fit Darkest Hour on your DVD shelf next to The King’s Speech, as grand use of oratory skills and language during World War II.