I recently had the opportunity to see Darkest Hour, the film about Winston Churchill’s early days as the British Prime Minister. It had been on my short list of movies I wanted to see, partly because I enjoy historical films, and partly because I had heard Oldman’s performance was outstanding. I was not disappointed in either respect.
I love movies, but I must admit that most contemporary movies are not as appealing to me as classic films because the emphasis in newer films is always on the CGI and the larger than life look of the film, sometimes at the expense of the content. To me Darkest Hour was a throwback film in a couple of ways.
The director of the picture, Joe Wright, successfully depicted the gravity of this moment in history using lighting and color. In particular the smoke filled room where the War Committee met regularly had an ominous feel to it in which the conventional wisdom was almost oppressive. Another way in which this film seems like a classic film is in the dominance of dialogue and the near absence of any special effects. This fact amplifies the stellar performance of Oldman, whose portrayal of Churchill was nearly perfect, no doubt the result of hours of study of the man.
This movie also boasts one of the best scenes I have ever seen in a picture. This scene takes place in the Tube (the London subway) and depicts the emotions of Churchill and the citizens on the train poignantly. There are many different aspects of the relationship between Churchill and the people portrayed in this scene. Though there is no reason to believe that this scene is based on an event, it certainly illustrates the fact that the people played an important role in Churchill’s position and his decision making. Because he understood the people, Churchill ultimately did not succumb to the conventional political wisdom of the day, even though the pressure was mounting for him to act against his instincts.
As with most films concerning WWII, I inevitably end up comparing the toughness and resolve of the average citizen of that era with the average citizen of today. Unfortunately, modern day citizens always come up short in this comparison. I wonder if I am judging fairly. Even our culture would fight hard against something they thought was evil. Right? The problem is, there is little agreement today about what is good and what is evil. By the time the British withdrew from Dunkirk, the shadow of Hitler had darkened Europe and there was no question of whether the evil was there, only whether or not it could be defeated. I have to ask myself, in this era of mass abortions and gender bending, is there any force in existence that all Americans today could agree is evil?