I remember seeing the trailer of Darkest Hour about a month ago and thinking it looked good. My expectations soon lowered when I was told the performances were good but everything else was average. In support of that theory, I learnt that Joe Wright directed it, the same guy who directed Pan. Thank goodness Darkest Hour wasn't that dreadful, but it wasn't great either.
In the same year of Nolan's masterpiece Dunkirk, Wright's movie depicts the events that led to the Dunkirk evacuation. In specific, the film follows newly-appointed British Prime Minister Winston Churchill (Gary Oldman) as he must decide whether to negotiate a peace settlement with Hitler's Germany or fight against the odds.
I don't know much about Winston Churchill or about the events leading up to England's entry into Worl War II (in my defence, I'm Italian and we study how Italy entered the war) so this indeed was an interesting story for me to see told. At least, that's how it was supposed to be. Unfortunately, it was poorly executed and instead of being engaging and compelling, it was boring and dull. It brings up many things but doesn't even bother explaining them. We are not told why he was chosen as Prime Minister since everyone seems to hate it or why the kind didn't trust him. What's worst though is that it's not even explained why the king goes from distrusting him to blindly supporting him in the blink of an eye.
Darkest Hour is supposed to be a biopic but instead of giving us an understanding of what kind of man Winston Churchill was, the film wears us out with him sitting in meetings and giving speeches without actually telling anything about him. As a result, Churchill comes off as an over-the-top, eccentric man with a lot of power but very little depth.
Churchill's isn't the only uninteresting character in this film. That applies basically to everyone else. Especially to the female characters who are terribly underwritten and have no purpose in the story other than helping the male protagonist, which is a bit of a cliché of the genre.
Joe Wright's movie does have a strength though. That one thing that kept me watching until the end (even though I was bored to death). It's Gary Oldman, ladies and gents. I've seen enough historical footage of Churchill to say Oldman captures all the mannerisms, the walk, the voice. It's not always easy to understand what he's saying but in spite of that, he really gives a great performance. However, although I'm sure he will win the Oscar for it, I don't think it's that great to deserve it. Sure, he's unrecognizable, he entirely disappeared into the role, but some of the credits go to the men and women behind the make-up and costumes. Now, those deserve the Oscar.