Joe Wright's 'Darkest Hour' is the story of the transition of prime minister from Neville Chamberlain to Winston Churchill in the month of May 1940. As some may know, Churchill was not very liked, even in his own party and especially by the King. Chamberlain wanted to negotiate his way out of war and Churchill was simply angry and knew that war was the only answer. Unfortunately the parlement wasn't convinced and that's part of the reason why the British weren't putting their best foot forward as a country. They felt for their citizens, staying away from war was the proper route, but as this film explains in relatively good detail, that wasn't the case.
The film stars Gary Oldman who plays a magnificent Churchill, to the point of forgetting it's Gary amongst all that makeup. His intonation, his body movement, his expressions and even how he walked, were a spitting image of Churchill. He did a masterful job, as he always does. It humors me this movie came out in 2017, the same year as 'Dunkirk', a much talked theme in 'Darkest Hour'. It almost feels like a companion to 'Dunkirk' in many ways.
The film is expertly made. The script is non-nonsense, the set's and art direction were perfect, the editing and score were spot on, the casting was perfect all the way around and watching it, I had a smile on my face because it's such a breath of fresh air amongst all the other crap that came out this year.
Now, onto the cinematography. Bruno Delbonnel did a fantastic job and he never ceases to make me smile as well. I haven't seen one of his movies in a few years, but what he did in this film was wonderful. The natural lighting methods he used for the big set pieces worked so well. The practical lights in some of the darker rooms, were also spot on. His style of mostly static shots and using wides, medium's and close up's with similar focal lengths works really well. Sure he'll throw a pan or dolly track in every once in awhile, but the pacing of the film really lends itself to longer takes and dialog scenes, which work well with this style of film. It actually reminded me a lot of Jackie with the cold color timing and big sources through windows, etc. It really showed off the fantastic art/set design which was magnificent. At one point I thought they were in an actual location, until they put the camera where a wall was and I was shocked it was a set. I love to see guys like Bruno get jobs like this, he handled it brilliantly and the cinematography made the film far more enjoyable. I will say his decision to use the Alexa SXT worked well, though film would have smoothened out some of the harsh over-exposed areas that stuck out like sore thumbs ever once in awhile. If I were surmise, the use of digital was due to cost and the confined spaces they'd be shooting in; IE higher ISO = less need for light. I think this is a pretty good case where Digital does a great job and the Alexa in the right hands, looks great.
Overall, the movie was very entertaining and so well made, it really got me and my fellow moviegoers hobnobbing about it being the best movie of 2017 so far. I do understand some of the reviewers panning the film because of Gary's performance and lack of scenes without him. It does seem like a movie invented for him to get another Oscar. However, it was so well made, I really don't mind that. At the end, I wanted more and I left with a smile because good filmmaking is so hard to come by these days.