World War II was a defining moment in history, and it has consequently been portrayed numerous times at the cinema. Director Joe Wright’s Darkest Hour is the latest film to depict the war, focusing on Winston Churchill’s involvement in it when he became Britain’s Prime Minister.


The film opens with Elizabeth Layton, played by Lily James, getting briefed on her new secretary job. She’s warned of Churchill’s distaste for double spacing and is wished good luck, but that wasn’t quite enough to prepare her for her cantankerous boss. Gary Oldman plays Churchill, who is soon chided for his improper behavior by his wife, Clementine (Kristin Scott Thomas). Our first scene with Churchill, with him lying in bed, mumbling and hoisting a cigar, is a great introduction to his character, setting the tone for the film’s two-hour runtime.

Churchill, despite the skepticism of some, is chosen to be the new Prime Minister, eventually accepting the role. As the aptly named Darkest Hour advances in its plot, Britain is losing ground to Adolf Hitler and his army. Churchill nevertheless adamantly rejects the proposal to negotiate with Germany, expressing how you “cannot reason with a tiger when your head is in its mouth.” Britain’s army is ultimately split in two locations, Dunkirk and Calais, and the dissident Churchill gives orders to the latter to embark on a suicide strike to save the former troupe.

It cannot be overstated how much Oldman’s presence benefits Darkest Hour. Wright’s screenplay plays up the theatrics, displaying tense camera angles and lighting, but it’s Oldman’s nuances in his role that truly convey the stakes the British faced; from seeing Churchill’s blunt, uncouth demeanor deteriorate as pressure to talk with Germany grows to gazing upon his newfound resolve at the end of the film to continue fighting, Oldman gives a wonderful performance, one which carries Darkest Hour through its otherwise moderately by-the-numbers delivery.

Darkest Hour’s Blu-ray set comes with a DVD and a digital copy of the film. Regarding the extra features, the 8.16-minute “Into Darkest Hour” is a typical look into the creation and filming of the movie, whereas the “Gary Oldman: Becoming Churchill” video spends over four minutes discussing the process the actor undertook to understand the man he was cast as. A commentary track featuring Wright can overlay the film, too. The Blu-ray and DVD discs both share all three bonuses.

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