DARKEST HOUR
Rated PG-13
125 Minutes
Released November 22

As I was growing up, I was fascinated by a set of six thick volumes on my parents’ bookshelf (yes, we had books in those days,) each written by Winston Churchill, detailing a period of World War II. Reading excerpts from those works gave me great respect for the author.

Darkest Hour is a brilliant movie on many levels.

It skillfully profiles Churchill, one of the giants of modern history.

The cinematography by Bruno Delbonnel is extraordinary.

It’s often very “West Wing” in style, moving with the characters through fluid sets, providing a visceral feeling of being in the environment. High overhead shots, probably using drones, add to the feeling of being surrounded by their world and privy to their ultimate loneliness.

This movie shows how an old man with a flawed personality drew on his greatest intellect and strengths to summon the courage to lead his country into battle against an evil force in spite of inexorable signs of certain defeat.

He reminded his countrymen of what they stood to lose if they did not fight. His flaws gave him the strength to stick to his convictions rather than buckle to the opinions of the aristocracy.

Churchill here is not portrayed as a god or an infallible hero.

On display is a flawed human being, just like the rest of us, who summoned all of his resources of greatness when it most mattered to the world.

Having seen Churchill himself on television and in historical films, I believe that Gary Oldman’s portrayal is flawless.

Michael Bishop, Executive Director of the International Churchill Society and Director of the National Churchill Library states, “Casting Gary Oldman was a stroke of genius. His performance is one for the ages and it’s the best screen portrayal of Churchill that I’ve ever seen. He captures his energy and dynamism.” Oldman didn’t want to play Churchill, especially because he is so physically dissimilar. However as a close friend of director Joe Wright, he was persuaded to take the role.

Wright notes that “he was the only man for the job…a director’s job is …giving people the confidence to do their best work. And I knew he could, ‘cause he’s a genius.”

The team also convinced Japanese makeup artist Kazuhiro Tsuji to come out of retirement. “Kazu” had done Oldman’s makeup for Tim Burton’s Planet of the Apes.

The actor spent four hours a day in the makeup chair and donned prosthetics equal to half his own body weight. The result was an uncanny resemblance to Churchill. There are other great performances in this film: Lily James as Churchill’s secretary, Ben Mendelsohn as “King George VI,” and Ronald Pickup as “Neville Chamberlain.”

This story is a window into a part of Churchill’s life and times. What we view here is a masterpiece of exploration of human nature, sociology, politics and world history.

Watching this film you will take a journey to the brink of a terrifying world order that could have come to pass, a kind of world order that we must be always vigilant never to let materialize. Darkest Hour is one of the best movies of 2017.

Kathryn Whitney Boole has spent most of her life in the entertainment industry, which is the backdrop for remarkable adventures with extraordinary people.

She is a Talent Manager with Studio Talent Group in Santa Monica. kboole@gmail.com.

For previously published reviews see https://kwboole.wordpress.com

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