I wanted share with you some thoughts about the one movie I viewed last week: Darkest Hour, in which Gary Oldman portrays a newly-appointed British Prime Minister Winston Churchill who must decide the course to take after Germany’s invasion of Western Europe begins.
In a nutshell: The movie is enjoyable, and Oldman completely loses himself in the role. If Oscars still mean anything, he will certainly be nominated. Additionally, I was enchanted by the interactions between his wife Clemmie (played stylishly by Kristin Scott Thomas) and King George VI (a near reincarnation, played by Ben Mendelsohn). Those of you who enjoy the Neflix series, “The Crown”, and movies such as “The Kings Speech” and “Dunkirk” will likely find this film a cinematic treat.
The film is a worthy release for anyone who enjoys period pieces, great acting, and serious topics. However, I do have one, critical proviso related to the viewing of history-based movies I would like to share. Do not go to “Darkest Hour” with the expectation of complete, historical accuracy.
I am no expert on Winston Churchill, but I recall enough of my World War II reading to know he detested Hitler. I suspected that the dilemma between negotiating with Hitler and war, which was a key plot device, was inaccurate. It turns out, I was right, as noted by Sandford Borins (an author, a professor of Public Management, and a scholar of Churchill):
The movie deeply disappointed me – not because of Gary Oldman’s powerful portrayal of a force of nature – but because screenwriter Anthony McCarten bastardized the true story of British Government decision-making during the critical month of May 1940. This was the month when the British forces in Europe were retreating to the beach at Dunkirk and the Nazis, through the Italian government, were proposing negotiations.
…There are several things inaccurate about this version of the story. The subterranean focus group is pure fiction. Halifax gave up his advocacy of negotiations at the War Cabinet meeting of May 28. Churchill gave his “we shall fight on the beaches” speech a week later, on June 4. Finally, Churchill did send Halifax to Washington – as Ambassador.
My first rule of watching historical films is to let go of the desire to see real history being portrayed. Perhaps it is because I am an amateur Egyptologist, and ancient Egypt’s culture and history is subject to the most egregious levels of bastardization.
So, for me, a movie is a winner if it makes me want to go out and learn more about the events depicted. This movie did, and I found a recording of the “Never Surrender” speech that I enjoyed hearing.
It makes me wonder what Sir Winston would do if Twitter were available!
One other note: I overheard an audience member state that the movie was about 30 minutes too long, and lost part of its impact because of all the extraneous material. To be honest, this seems like a fair assessment. However, I thoroughly enjoyed watching the interactions between Oldman’s Churchill and his wife, secretary, and staff.
“Darkest Hour” gets 4 out of 5 stars. See it at least once, if you can.
On a related topic, and for those if you who have seen “Darkest Hour” and enjoyed it, I would recommend “The Crown”. Granted, I think Queen Elizabeth would recount what actually happened to her family differently than imagined in the series, but the show lovingly recreates the decades featured in each season and the acting is exceptional.
In my opinion, Season 2 Episode 6 is about the best TV episode I have ever viewed. Entitled Vergangenheit (meaning the past in German), it focused on Edward VIII (played by Alex Jennings) and his questionable links to the Nazis and Adolf Hitler.
One last prediction for 2018: Hollywood’s monopoly on cinematic entertainment essentially died in 2017, and we will be treated to more and better movies from independent outlets in the upcoming year. The stink coming from Hollywood in 2018 will be from the decomposition from its rotting corpse.DONATE
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