It cannot be said that Darkest Hour is anything but a good movie. It checks all of the boxes: an all-time portrayal of a real figure, a tight script about a trying time in history, and a director with the eye for the picturesque.
From top to bottom this is the superbly brilliant Gary Oldman’s film; and what an introduction for his Winston Churchill. Joe Wright is one the better visual filmmaker’s working today. This is one of his smaller films, which is something to say for a subject matter with the highest stakes imaginable. The best parts of the film are when Churchill is interacting with his wife (the always magnetic Kristen Scott Thomas) and his young typist played by Lily James. James is a sure-fire future star. Of course, Oldman is fantastic and nearly unrecognizable under the pounds of makeup. You can still see his eyes, though. And his eyes tell the story.
The problem (not that there truly is one) with Oldman’s performance and Darkest Hour as a whole, is that Winston Churchill’s image, voice, cadence, and words are so recognizable that it’s hard to screw it up. The lines were already served up in cut-up little morsels like a baby’s dinner. Churchill does look like a baby. In Darkest Hour Oldman’s Winston says as much on the much vaunted Underground ride with the commoners. It’s the best scene in a good film. It’ll be what sealed Oldman his long-deserved Oscar.
Will Darkest Hour be remembered as a great film years from now? That remains to be seen. It may just be a performance in search of a movie.