Arts & Leisure

“Darkest Hour”: Oldman shines, but …

GARY OLDMAN stars as Winston Churchill in “Darkest Hour.”

By Jim Tortolano

“Darkest Hour,” starring Gary Oldman as Winston Churchill in the early days of World War II, deserves high praise for the performance of its lead actor and a head scratch for most of the rest of the movie.

Oldman is spot-on in his warts-and-all portrayal of the crusty British prime minister in the spring of 1940. Every detail, from his heavy drinking to gruff, mumbling voice, is faithfully recreated here. The level of immersion into the role would be applauded even by Daniel Day-Lewis.

However, this is a war movie, frankly, without a war. There are only a few, thin moments of military action. The sense of impending menace necessary to create the mood of “Darkest Hour” are missing. There’s even a scene in which one character looks around and says “It doesn’t even look like there’s a war on.” Indeed, you can see more armor and violence at an NFL game.

There’s one sketchy scene in which Churchill descends into subway car to conduct a focus group on whether Britain should fight on or cut a deal with Hitler. Even if this encounter ever happened – it didn’t – it was weak research: six clean and safe people without any experience of modern war.

Catching the eye are Lily Taylor as Churchill’s typist and Ben Mendolsohn as the stuttering but finally resolute King George VI.

As far as it goes, the direction by Joe Wright and the screenplay by Anthony McCarten are praiseworthy, but after two hours and five minutes, one gets the impression that the chief danger in “Darkest Hour” was the Brits talking each other to death.

“Darkest Hour: is rated PG-13 for some profanity and (very little) violence.


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