Darkest Hour, the 2017 drama which follows Winston Churchill’s first weeks in office, won two Oscars Last night — Best Actor (Gary Oldman) and Best Makeup. It was nominated for four more awards, including Best Picture. I enjoyed the movie alright, but in my opinion, Darkest Hour was overrated.
As my friend pointed out to me after the final scene, Darkest Hour is a war movie without the fighting — a concept I can stand behind, in theory. Yet at points the film was too slow, and as someone who likes slow movies that’s saying a lot.
There were only two conflicts throughout the entire two hours: who should succeed Chamberlain as Prime Minister and whether or not Great Britain should engage in peace talks with the Nazis. This sounds fine, until you realize every scene is the same argument played out between different characters in different locations.
Darkest Hour also contains quite a few WWII cliches: the young, bright typist whose brother is killed in the war; generals constantly huddled in the War Rooms around a giant map with colorful tacks on it; Winston Churchill reading important documents in the bathtub or eating an absurdly large breakfast; Parliament dissolving into yelling matches out of frustration, etc. Alone none of these is problematic, but in order for a film about WWII to receive such critical acclaim, I thought it would be a little more unique.
One thing that did make Darkest Hour stand out from similar films was its cinematography. Much of the movie was shot and edited to be deliberately beautiful, with its clean lines and calculated color scheme, unlike most historical films I’ve seen. However, personally the artistry trivialized the brutal, inhumane war happening off camera. While it was lovely to watch aesthetically, to me Darkest Hour romanticized the war as puzzle for Churchill to solve rather than recognizing the sheer loss of life it meant for most Brits not in his position of authority.
Finally, imagine my disappointment when I learned that the most powerful scene in the movie — the one where Churchill rides the Underground and talks to Londoners about whether to negotiate with the Nazis — never actually happened! Did I mention this is the climax of the story?
Overall, Darkest Hour was fine, and I’m sure historical junkies enjoyed it more than I did. But its lack of excitement, creativity and tact left me wanting so much more.