ON THE SILVER SCREEN: CHURCHILL BIOGRAPHY BORING, BLAND (DARKEST HOUR)

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By Liz Alper

Photo via Youtube

December 15, 2017 (San Diego) - A lot has been said about Winston Churchill.  Some people (the British) see him as a hero who won Britain the Second World War.  Americans probably see him as that too, but with an added dose of crazy.  And still, some people in darker circles don’t see him as a hero at all.  Focus Features’ Darkest Hour reveals the truth about the man. Or does it?

The film documents Winston Churchill’s (played by Gary Oldman, who is almost unrecognizable) movements in May of 1940, just after his election to prime minister and while his war committee wanted to reach out to Italy for a peace treaty.  I was disappointed that the film didn’t document the winning of the war, but it was good to see a story we as Americans don’t learn about  in school.

There are very few movies that I outright reject on the first scene.  This, unfortunately, was one of them.  I don’t know much about Churchill, but the film portrays him as a grumpy, almost senile old man, not the image of the great leader we think of.  Yelling at his secretary (Lily James) in his opening scene made me extremely uncomfortable.

Sadly, there were not very many bright spots in this film, which is a shame because I really wanted to like it, though I didn’t have high hopes for it to begin with.  

There were two saving graces to this film.  One scene where Churchill boards an underground train in the London subway system and is met with stares.  After making one of his wisecracks (“what’s the?  Haven’t you ever seen a prime minister on the underground seen a prime minister on the underground before?”), he asks the public what their opinion is on peace talks and what they would do if the Nazis came to London.  Overwhelmingly, the response from the common people was that they would fight and that England shouldn’t give up.  That was a great scene because it showed that Churchill was a man of the people and showed the spirit of the English people.  

The other saving grace of this film was when Churchill delivered his famous “we shall never surrender” speech at his address to Parliament at the end of the film.  Speeches in films always have a profound effect on me; they’re just so powerful and this was no different.  It was made even more powerful by the fact that Churchill had just gained his peers’ and opponents’ respect, support and trust.  

Overall, however, Darkest Hour is an encouragement to save your money.  Even Gary Oldman can’t save it.  If you’re interested in British World War II history or in Churchill, I suppose it’s worth it, but otherwise, stay away.

A Focus Features distribution.  Directed by Joe Wright.  Written by Anthony McCarten.  Music by Dario Marianelli.  Cinematography by Bruno Delbonnel.  Cast:  Gary Oldman, Kristin Scott Thomas, Lily James, Stephen Dillane, Ronald Pickup, Ben Mendelsohn.  Rating:  PG13.  Runtime:  2h 5m