Darkest Hour

B+

Winston Churchill has appeared in an amazing number of movies and has been portrayed by dozens of actors. He was so unique with so many great speeches that people love to imitate him. Actors have been chewing up scenes playing him almost as much as they do playing Ebeneezer Scrooge. Darkest Hour shows Churchill at the very beginning of his tenure as Prime Minister and he is dealt a losing hand as the Germans break through Belgium and overrun France, including most of the British army. His predecessor, Neville Chamberlain, famous for appeasing Hitler, still has some power and still wants a negotiated settlement with Hitler. I question how realistic that really was at this point, but that is the main conflict of the story as Churchill, who has pushed for fighting the Germans, is faced with not having an army or the political support to do so. This Churchill is decidedly less overconfident and clever, and shown with a lot of very real weaknesses. We get to see all of this through scenes with his confidantes: his wife (Kristin Scott Thomas), his secretary (the always adorable Lily James), and a few uneasy political allies. Gary Oldman's portrayal shows us a lot of facets of Churchill and it is no wonder his performance is so acclaimed. The story itself is maybe a little overwrought: we know things are going to be okay for Churchill and his kingdom, even if maybe a lot of the audience won't realize how close things really were. While it is done well, it seems like there is a Churchill movie almost every year. I have a hard time giving it an A for that reason, but how about a B+?