There are times when the prognostication world anoints a presumed Oscar winner, only to have the film or the performance fall flat when actually seen. Then, there are other times when the movie or performer meets expectations and the victor should begin writing up their speech for the Academy Awards. More often than not, the former winds up being true. Gary Oldman is a case of the latter, as his turn in Darkest Hour is 100% going to win him the Oscar for Best Actor. It’s just a done deal, Academy wise. Beginning its theatrical run today, it’s also a quality biopic that’s more than simply shameless awards bait.
The film is a look at British Prime Minister Winston Churchill (Oldman), how he came to power during the early days of World War II, and his agonizing decision over whether to negotiate with Hitler or fight on. The last choice of his party to replace Neville Chamberlain (Ronald Pickup), who all much prefer Viscount Halifax (Stephen Dillane), Churchill is immediately up against a wall. Chamberlain and Halifax are pursuing negotiations with the Nazis, something the new PM is deeply against. Even King George VI (Ben Mendelsohn) initially doesn’t stand with Churchill. Supported by only his wife Clementine (Kristin Scott Thomas), he must find his footing and lead the nation in its…you guessed it…darkest hour. Joe Wright directs a script by Anthony McCarten. Lily James has a main supporting role, while other cast members include Anna Burnett, Nicholas Jones, Richard Lumsden, Hannah Steele, Jordan Waller, Samuel West, and more. Dario Marianelli composed the score, while Bruno Delbonnel handles the cinematography.
This biopic manages to be more than just the Oldman show, though he’s undoubtedly excellent in the central role. He disappears into the part, both physically and in terms of the performance. Wright also continues to make visual films that challenge. There’s a definite hump to be found in the middle, but the final act of the movie is rather strong. Oddly, it makes a really great companion piece with Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk, which it will be competing against for awards. Speaking of just such a thing, it’ll be facing off with in a number of categories. Beyond that, look for this one to be a real player across the board.
Oscar will undoubtedly reward Oldman, but Darkest Hour could do really well overall. Look for campaigns in Best Picture, Best Director (for Wright), Best Actor (for Oldman), Best Supporting Actor (for Dillane and/or Mendelsohn), Best Supporting Actress (for Scott Thomas), Best Original Screenplay (for McCarten), Best Production Design, Best Cinematography, Best Costume Design, Best Film Editing, Best Makeup & Hairstyling, Best Sound Editing, Best Sound Mixing, and Best Original Score. Mark down a win in Actor for Oldman, while Makeup & Hairstyling could be a solid bet as well. Everything else remains to be seen, but a half dozen nods are not that difficult for this flick. In fact, it could contend for double digit nom totals before all is said and done.
Here is how I would rank Wright’s filmography to date:
6. The Soloist
5. Anna Karenina
4. Pride and Prejudice
2. Darkest Hour
Here also are Oldman’s ten best performances so far:
10. Batman Begins
8. Bram Stoker’s Dracula
7. The Dark Knight Rises
6. Léon: The Professional
5. The Dark Knight
4. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
3. Sid and Nancy
2. Darkest Hour
1. The Contender
This week/weekend, audiences can finally see Oldman’s work for themselves, as Darkest Hour opens. Fans of Wright’s film will be impressed with his direction once again, though Oldman obviously is front and center. Anyone with any interest in the Oscars will want to see this, in advance of Oldman’s win. Yes, it’s that much in the bag. Older audience members will flock to this sort of thing, but it should have a wider appeal than that. If you’re a history buff, this will be right up your alley. Give it a shot and see what you think. Plus, stay tuned for plenty of Oldman precursor wins to come…
Be sure to check out Darkest Hour, out in theaters on a platform basis right now!