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04 Jan 2018

Historical Hit: Gary Oldman's Performance as Winston Churchill in 'Darkest Hour' Is a Triumph

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Kristin Scott Thomas and Gary Oldman in Darkest Hour. Kristin Scott Thomas and Gary Oldman in Darkest Hour.

In what amounts to a much-wordier companion piece to Dunkirk, Gary Oldman disappears into the role of Winston Churchill in Darkest Hour.

The movie starts shortly before Churchill takes over as prime minister—a controversial choice to lead who is facing a lot of opposition, including a skeptical King George VI (brilliantly played by Ben Mendelsohn). The film chronicles Churchill’s speeches (transcribed by personal secretary Elizabeth Layton, played winningly by Lily James) and his strategizing, leading up to him gaining Parliament’s support in not seeking peace with Hitler—and pledging all-out war.

Director Joe Wright (Atonement, Hanna) always makes great-looking movies, and this is no exception. Oldman is virtually guaranteed an Oscar nomination as Churchill. It’s not a role you would think he was born to play, but excellent makeup and prosthetics make his transformation completely convincing. This isn’t just a guy working through a bunch of stuff on his face; Oldman inhabits the role in a way that makes you forget the makeup. Kristin Scott Thomas does career-best work in the small but pivotal role of Clemmie, Churchill’s extremely tolerant wife.

Darkest Hour is one of the better-acted films of 2017. Much of the running time deals with behind-the-scenes maneuvering regarding the events at Dunkirk, and it’s because of this that Darkest Hour plays great in a double feature with Christopher Nolan’s action-pic take on the same event.

Darkest Hour is playing at theaters across the valley.

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