Darkest Hour

In what amounts to a much wordier companion piece to Dunkirk, Gary Oldman disappears into the role of Winston Churchill. The movie starts shortly before Churchill takes over as Prime Minister, with Churchill a controversial choice to lead and having much opposition, including a skeptical King George VI (brilliantly played by Ben Mendelsohn). The film chronicles Churchill’s speeches (transcribed by personal secretary Elizabeth Layton, played winningly by Lily James) and strategizing, leading up to his finally winning over Parliament’s support in not seeking peace with Hitler and pledging all-out war. Director Joe Wright (Atonement, Hanna) always makes a great-looking movie, and this is no exception. Oldman is virtually guaranteed an Oscar nomination as Churchill, a role you wouldn’t think he was born to play, but excellent makeup prosthetics help to make his transformation completely convincing. And this isn’t just a gig with a guy working through a bunch of stuff on his face; he inhabits the role in a way that makes you forget that makeup. Kristin Scott Thomas does career-best work in the small but pivotal role of Clemmie, Churchill’s extremely tolerant wife. It’s one of the better-acted films of 2017. Much of the running time deals with behind-the-scenes maneuvering regarding the events at Dunkirk. It’s because of this that Darkest Hour plays great in a double feature with Christopher Nolan’s action pic take on the same event.