Darkest Hour, B+
Rated PG-13, 125 minutes
Victory at all costs. That was one of the trademark sayings of famed British Prime Minister Winston Churchill. The inspiring, superbly-acted new historical political thriller "Darkest Hour," which will likely emerge victorious for the many accolades it will bring Oldman, who shines as the irrepressible yet charming leader.
The film's story begins at the precipice of World War II as, within days of becoming Prime Minister of Great Britain, Winston Churchill (Oldman) must face one of his most turbulent and defining trials: exploring a negotiated peace treaty with Nazi Germany, or standing firm to fight for the ideals, liberty and freedom of a nation. As the unstoppable Nazi forces roll across Western Europe, Churchill must withstand his darkest hour, rally a nation, and attempt to change the course of world history.
"Darkest Hour" is directed by "Atonement's" Joe Wright and is written by Anthony McCarten and is most memorable for Oldman electrifying, Oscar-worthy turn as Churchill, which is the main reason to see this historical drama. Impeccable costumes and sets, along with a sublime hair and make-up job, add to Oldman's transformative turn, and we know how Oscar loves transformative turns (see McConaughey in "Dallas Buyers Club").
Oldman is well-supported by Emmy-winner Ben Mendelsohn ("Bloodline") as King George IV, Oscar-nominee Kristen Scott Thomas ("The English Patient") as Winston's patient wife Clementine and "Baby Driver's" Lily James as Churchill's long-suffering secretary Elizabeth Heyton, with whom he has a special professional bond with.
"Darkest Hour" can be occasionally heavy-handed and predictable, somewhat tailored to awards season vote getters, specifically Academy members, but they, like most, should enjoy it. It's also a decent history lesson and a reminder that sometimes going against the grain is a good thing, and even historians will note that it was a mixed bag even for a great leader like Churchill, who knew how to lead and inspire a nation.
Oldman embodies the perfect Churchill: gregarious, infuriating, stubborn and inspiring, and he's best when delivering the rousing speeches, and you'll certainly leave cheering both Winston and Oldman. "Darkest Hour" is entertaining and moving though likely it won't be the last biopic we'll see about Churchill. Even though it seems made with awards in mind, the Best Actor Oscar is still Oldman's to lose.