World War II movies are by-and-large amazing. The best years have gifted us with such amazing films like “Saving Private Ryan,” “Fury” and “Dunkirk.” Movies like this represent the quintessential battle between good and evil, which makes perfect sense because clearly Hitler is you-know, a bad guy. Movies about good versus evil are always great and do well in the box office. “Darkest Hour” is no different. The film has a rating of 86 percent by critics and an audience score of 84 percent. Apparently everyone is a fan. I have to agree with all of them. “Darkest Hour” is a refreshing and unseen take on a World War II movie.
Basically everyone knows what happened during World War II: Nazi-Germany went on a huge offensive conquering most of Western Europe. Finally, the United States got involved helping Britain save the rest of Europe. What we never really hear about is how the British got to the state where they were being bombarded every single night by German bombers. “Darkest Hour” tells that story.
The film focusses on Winston Churchill, played by Gary Oldman, as he attempts to navigate the British Empire during the start of World War II. Churchill is named Prime Minister by a party that doesn’t really trust him but needs his guidance and the support of the opposition party. They also plan on using him as the fall man if anything goes wrong during his tenure. Churchill is also battling his own problems including drinking and a horrible attitude.
Everything takes a turn when France falls to Germany. Now not only are the British stuck trying to bring their boys home (see “Dunkirk” for a full recap), but all of Europe is basically controlled by Hitler. Against Churchill’s wishes, the war council begins to consider surrendering to Hitler with the situation getting so dire that Churchill begins to consider it as well. The title, “Darkest Hour,” comes from Churchill having to make a decision during this time. After being inspired by the British people on a subway ride, Churchill decides that he must not give in to Hitler because a Britain under Nazi Germany would not be any kind of Britain. The film ends with Churchill giving his famous “We will battle them on the beaches” speech which ends with roaring applause from his own party and all of Parliament.
Gary Oldman and the film as a whole have already garnered Oscar nods and it’s easy to see why. While Churchill had a very rough exterior, there were moments when he seemed like a broken man. As the war got worse, Oldman showed his years of experience by portraying a man who had lost all hope and was ready to give up. Another standout was his typist Elizabeth Layton, played by Lily James. Acting as an almost-human element to Churchill’s brusque, hard exterior, James characterizes how the rest of the general population views the war. She helps comfort Churchill during his hardest moments and helps him write his inspiring speech. Without that kind of character being cast against Churchill, I don’t think Oldman would have been able to have been truly effective in playing both the broken and reborn Churchill.
There are potential historical inaccuracies within the film. It is unlikely that Churchill rode a subway and that the people on it inspired him to fight against the Nazis. It’s more likely that Churchill just didn’t trust that Hitler would keep his word.
With that aside, however, the film is exciting and refreshing. It makes governmental politics as interesting as an action movie and really makes the viewer become invested in Britain’s war effort. All in all a great film.