Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Darkest Hour: Monday, 18 December 2017


Darkest Hour (2017) is a British biographical war drama, directed by Joe Wright (45) who is known for his Pride and Prejudice (2005), Atonement (2007), Hanna (2011) and Anna Karenina (2012). I liked his direction of Darkest Hour. His is the hand of a master. The screenplay is written by Anthony McCarten (56), a New Zealander best known for his script of The Theory of Everything (2014). I loved the subtle touches of British humour that lightened the grimness of the situation facing Churchill and the British people. Both Churchill and the Brits had a sense of humour, even in such dire times. The cinematography by Bruno Delbonnel (60) reflects the gloom that shrouded Britain, faced with invasion by the Nazis. The music by Dario Marianelli (54) is highly original, and appropriate. Altogether, Darkest Hour is the production of highly experienced professionals.

Gary Oldman (59) as Sir Winston Churchill is outstanding. He is an award-winning British actor and was a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company. This shows in his acting. His performance as Churchill may win the Oscar for Best Actor. I can't think of any other actor who has come up to this standard this year. Kristin Scott Thomas (57) as Clementine Churchill is excellent, as are all the rest of the cast in their parts.

What I liked most about this film is that it is make so abundantly clear how desperate the situation was that Britain was facing, and how clear the choices were for Churchill. In early 1940, the British Army was being chased by the Nazis onto the beaches of Normandy where they would be massacred. Invasion of an undefended Britain was imminent. Mussolini was offering Italy's mediation in a peace treaty with Hitler. Neville Chamberlain and Viscount Halifax were pushing acceptance of lying down and surrendering, out of good motives such as sparing lives. Churchill, who was born in Blenheim Palace and was of the Dukes of Marlborough, an distinguished, aristocratic, military family, didn't want to accept failure against an enemy force, no matter how strong. He is reputed to have consulted some members of the British public who assured him that he understood that the Brits take pride in their fighting spirit. They were with him. When King George VI backed him up, Churchill made the difficult decision to fight on. The evacuation of the troops was undertaken by the British Royal Navy, the Canadian Navy and a flotilla of hundreds of little ships and boats from Britain. Around 300,000 troops were rescued, and lived to fight another day. This made a huge difference to the outcome of the war. Churchill became an inspiration to the British people and helped keep their morale high, when it needed boosting.

It's impressive that a generation of filmmakers who are too young to have experienced the Second World War first hand, should make such a moderate, balanced and accurate rendering of those times. I found Darkest Hour moved me greatly. My fighting Scottish blood says Sir Winston Churchill made the right decision. When it is considered how different life would have been for so many people had the Nazis invaded Britain, it seems difficult to think otherwise.

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