Legendary actor Gary Oldman has yet to capture that elusive Oscar statue, and it's a fact we're often reminded of whenever his name surfaces. However, many insiders believe Oldman is destined to join the exclusive Oscar ranks thanks to his unrecognizable transformation in Joe Wright's Oscar baity examination of Winston Churchill in the drama Darkest hour. And although the film's lack of fervor and energy make for a sporadically painful two hour affair, Darkest Hour checks all the necessary boxes for the overwhelming majority of Academy voters, making it a viable Best Picture candidate when nominations are announced in late-January.
Set during the early stages of World War II, the country of England has lost faith in Prime Minister Chamberlain (Ronald Pickup) following Hitler's bold expansion throughout Europe. Winston Churchill (Oldman) is brought to power as Chamberlain's replacement merely as an appeasement strategy, but loyalties to him by members of parliament are nonexistent and put the new Prime Minister in a precarious situation. And as Hitler's forces draw closer to their shorelines, Churchill's call to fight back and never surrender meets a strong resistance from members of parliament eager to reach a peace agreement with the vile dictator.
We all know where the story goes from there. Churchill's successfully unifies his country in an effort to combat Hitler's Nazi regime and the rest is history. Yet, the depth of Churchill's inelegant rise to power is brilliantly captured due in large part to Anthony McCarten's immaculately detailed screenplay and Gary Oldman's towering lead performance. Oldman is a show-stealer, nailing every scene with immense precision and a gritty characterization of a true historic icon. Darkest Hour brings to life the good, the bad and the ugly surrounding Churchill's controversial personality, delivered to Oscar-winning heights by this year's early Best Actor frontrunner, Gary Oldman. But through it all, the film hits home by illustrating the Prime Minister's remarkable ability to unite the masses and, as a result, help change the course of history. However, to its detriment, Darkest Hour is plagued by a punishingly wordy script that makes this British cousin to Spielberg's Lincoln feel like an absolute chore at times. If you're looking for an uptempo movie experience, this certainly isn't it. But if you can withstand a dialogue-heavy recount of a great historical moment in time, then Darkest Hour will definitely satisfy.