Darkest Hour

The reviews were ecstatic and praise for Gary Oldman universal - ‘the definitive Churchill’. I went to Darkest Hour in great anticipation - and was disappointed. This was not because of the made up scene of Churchill taking the Underground or other inaccuracies; this is a film drama and not a documentary and artistic license is allowed - but because I think it failed in showing the wonder and genius that was Churchill.

All the old caricatures were there - him dictating in bed, in the bath and on the loo. The cigars, the drinking and puckish humour. But the Oldman Churchill missed the thing that all contemporaries commented on - his energy. Harold Nicolson in his diaries described a bolt of lightening that burst upon the government on his accession to power, his presence everywhere and the blizzard of telegrams, memos and telephone calls exhorting, ordering and demanding ‘action this day’. Oldman’s Churchill is an old man - seemingly isolated, depressed and unsure of himself. This may have been the case later in the war when his ‘black dog’ descended on him but not at this point. Ultimately it is hard, in this account, to see why the British people would have been inspired and led by such an eccentric, tired old man. 

The film biopic of Lincoln, in contrast, does this magnificently. You look at photographs of Lincoln and find it hard to understand the greatness of the man that was acknowledged by all. Daniel Day Lewis wonderfully shows his nobility of  mind, the backwoods humour and the huckstery lawyer’s charm as well as his physical awkwardness. You feel you have met the man and have fallen under his spell. With Oldman’s Churchill you have the eccentricity and the mannerisms but not the furious energy of a man who led five lives in the space of one - and who was the man of the hour at that moment of national existential crisis. I wasn’t looking for a hagiography - far from it - but I was anticipating that ‘bolt of lightening’ - in vain. Someday someone will get it. Sadly it’s not Gary Oldman in Darkest Hour.


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