Darkest Hour

Darkest Hour  1/2

The second Winston Churchill biopic of the year (after Brian Cox’s commanding but little-seen turn in Jonathan Teplitzky’s Churchill) and the third film to feature the evacuation at Dunkirk (after Lone Scherfig’s delightful Their Finest and Christopher Nolan’s time-shuffling Dunkirk), this is also the worst of the lot. That’s not a terribly surprising revelation since the film is from director Joe Wright, whose love of the stage hasn’t translated particularly well to the screen, as evidenced by his last two pictures, Anna Karenina and Pan. Just as turgid as both of those, Darkest Hour is a clear Oscar-grab for Gary Oldman, who puzzlingly moves with a swiftness of step that would be stunning even coming from someone half of Churchill’s age and girth. Buried under mounds of nevertheless impressive makeup, Oldman’s prime minister seems just as unstoppable as the Nazi forces that are rolling through Europe. And all of life’s a speech, even when he decides to rub elbows with the Common Man in the London Underground. The entire film is rather silly and cartoonish, and just the type of historical drama the Academy might eat up. Overlit by cinematographer Bruno Delbonnel (who’s usually much better than this), the film is weighted down with artificiality, which extends to Wright’s staging of the Dunkirk retreat. I wouldn’t be surprised to find that Oldman’s fat suit is filled with pork, since this is the hammiest performance he’s given in quite some time. He might have smelled an Oscar, but his performance reeks of Eau de Oscar Mayer. (At Boston Common and Kendall Square.)

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