Darkest Hour is a British war drama directed by Joe Wright and written by Anthony McCarten. It is an account of the early days of Winston Churchill as Prime Minister, when Nazi Germany swept across Western Europe, threatening to defeat the United Kingdom during World War II. This threat lead to friction at the highest levels of government between those who would make a peace treaty with Hitler and Churchill who refused.
Darkest Hour starts in May of 1940 with the opposition Labour Party in Parliament demanding the resignation of British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain (Ronald Pickup) for being too weak in the face of the Nazi onslaught. Chamberlain tells Conservative Party advisers that he wants Lord Halifax (Stephen Dillane) as his successor, but Halifax does not want to become Prime Minister yet. Chamberlain must choose the only other man whom other parties will support: Winston Churchill (Gary Oldman), the First Lord of the Admiralty.
Churchill, who was not well liked, tried to dismiss his new secretary Elizabeth Layton (Lily James) for mis-hearing him, which caused his wife Clementine, (Kristin Scott Thomas) to strongly reprimand him. After Churchill’s acceptance, King George VI (Ben Mendelsohn) reluctantly invited him to form a government that would include Chamberlain and Halifax.
Despite being right about the danger from Adolf Hitler, Churchill’s poor reputation remained because of his record in the Admiralty, the Gallipoli Campaign in the First World War, his views on India and his support for Edward VIII during the Abdication Crisis. Churchill’s first speech is aggressive, promising “Blood, toil, tears and sweat,” for which he is chastised by the King and practically ignored by Parliament. Churchill refuses to negotiate for peace, believing that the Germans are untrustworthy. Eventually, a plan was devised to cause a vote of no confidence that would allow Halifax to replace Churchill as Prime Minister. The British Expeditionary Force is trapped at Dunkirk and Calais. Against the advice of the War Cabinet, Churchill orders Brigadier Claude Nicholson in Calais to lead the 30th Infantry Brigade in a suicide attack to distract the enemy while the soldiers at Dunkirk evacuate.
Defeat in France causes the War Cabinet to support negotiating with Germany. George VI unexpectedly visits Churchill, the King, not wanting to rule in exile should Britain be invaded, encourages the Prime Minister to continue the war. Still uncertain of what to do, Churchill decides to ask London Underground passengers; the civilians want to continue to fight. Churchill meets with the Outer Cabinet and other members of Parliament, who also support him. The evacuation of troops from Dunkirk, Operation Dynamo, is successful.
As Churchill prepares to address Parliament, Halifax asks Chamberlain to continue with their plan to resign, but Chamberlain decides to listen to the address first. Towards the end of his speech, Churchill proclaims that “We shall fight on the beaches” should the Germans invade. Chamberlain decides to support Churchill, and Parliament applauds the Prime Minister’s defiance.
Darkest Hour is a great movie and a tells a pretty accurate history of Churchill’s appointment to Prime Minister and the extraordinary rescue of the British Expeditionary Force at Dunkirk. I highly recommend this movie to all. Check it out — this is one of Gary Oldman’s greatest performances.
[Darkest Hour is nominated for Best Picture, Best Actor Cinematography, Costume Design, Makeup and Hairstyling and Production Design]