Darkest Hour will probably win Gary Oldman the Oscar for Best Actor [Review]

His portrayal of British Prime Minister Winston Churchill during a turning point of the second world war is a stunning tour de force

Nicola Chan |

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Gary Oldman stars as Winston Churchill in Darkest Hour.

There’s no question Gary Oldman deserves his Best Actor nomination for the Golden Globe Awards (and most probably an upcoming Oscar nod too). His mind-blowing performance in Darkest Hour is the best reason to watch the historical drama.

The biographical film captures how the British Prime Minister Churchill (Oldman) fearlessly rallies his country during its darkest hour - the early days of World War II - and forges its history on a path of victory.

With the impending defeat of France, hundreds of thousands of British soldiers are trapped between the advancing Nazis and the sea. At such a critical time, Churchill stands his ground and refuses to negotiate a peace treaty with Germany, all the while also trying to boost public morale and fight off political rivals.

Chief among these is the Viscount Halifax (Stephen Dillane), who secretly harbour a desire to become Prime Minister himself, and urges Churchill again and again to parley with Hitler for the safety of the nation. 

Despite sharing the same historical context as Dunkirk, Darkest Hour is not about the brutal hardships of individual soldiers in a time of war. Instead the film is a raw portrayal of the bloodless, yet no less tactical, nature of political battles between powerful people. His speeches, conferences with King George VI (Ben Mendelsohn), interactions with members of his own party and family are the fights he must win to save the country.

Oldman's transformation in Churchill includes a physical change.
Photo: Universal Pictures International

Playing the eloquent yet volatile workaholic, Oldman channels the many different sides of Churchill: He is brusque, but also gentle and loving to his supportive wife Clementine Churchill (Kristin Scott Thomas) and secretary Elizabeth Layton (Lily James). You’ll also catch a glimpse of his lonely moments of self-doubt yet be utterly convinced when he charges forward with self-belief, bravery and leadership at times when he is most needed.

Oldman’s incredible performance includes changing himself to bear a striking physical resemblance to the former British PM. He does this alongside spot-on mannerisms, which make the transformation all the more believable.

Dillane’s acting is equally powerful, and you can feel the massive rage emanating from his stern face and fiery eyes. A scene of Halifax having an intense conflict with Churchill is especially gripping, for it showcases both actors’ exceptional acting skills.

With a tension-building soundtrack and aesthetically-pleasing cinematography, Darkest Hour is a well-knitted drama that details the decision-making process at a vital point in world history. Even though the plot does not stay 100 per cent true to history, Oldman’s stunning impersonation of Churchill, complemented with his professional supporting cast, will certainly teach you that “progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.”

Edited by Jamie Lam