I fell asleep during the Darkest Hour...Sorry England
Updated: Jun 13, 2018
I fell asleep during The Darkest Hour… sorry England
Before you freak out, I must announce that this is about the film. It is not a criticism of the actual events that this film was based on and the monumentally brave men and women who fought for our freedom in Britain. The acting was stellar, the makeup was unbelievable, every performance was spot on. And I love Gary Oldman, whose performance and prosthetics, essentially, held this film together and won him the BAFTA.
It was just, kind of...long, and occasionally, boring. And, well, sometimes cringey. I ended up snuggling onto my boyfriend’s shoulder-pillow, an unspoken agreement that he would wake me up before the end. I didn’t sleep for long though, it was just that uncomfortable neck drop that wakes you up as fast as you fell. But this was the realisation for me; and all the guilt and shame around the fact that I was falling asleep had to be accepted. It’s OK to not really care about another Winston Churchill film. Dare I say it. Eek.
I could feel the patriotism as I entered the cinema screen, which was packed, on a Wednesday night, in Winchester, during its third week of cinema release. It feels like one of those movies that’s a conversation starter for us Brits, “have you seen The Darkest Hour?” “Oh yes, ya, great film, ya ya.” Or, “no, not yet, but ya ya really want to!” “Oh you MUST!!!”
I can see why, it managed to make a whole film about Churchill’s step into power at one of the most pivotal points in modern British history, and the relationship between his personal battle for discovering what he should do for his country when faced with doubt, scepticism, and an imminent invasion. It uses an historical event to penetrate the core of human values, the fight for freedom. Churchill, or should I say, Gary Oldman, does this all too well, and so captivatingly, especially with the bouncy double chin. I salute the makeup artists because you honestly believe that Oldman is a podgy old Churchill, spitting and mumbling words of wisdom.
No doubt at all that is a magnificent piece of filmmaking from Jo Wright, and it managed to bring to life the smokey stuffy cabinet rooms, as well as the stuffy decrepit old, white men of parliament. It does what historically, biographical dramas previously did not: it artfully bases its action on a very short time-frame, one month in May 1940, Churchill's darkest hour(s). It does so with a cinematic art, engaging its audience with well-crafted drama, cinematography, Lily James, and some quintessentially British shots of London - and a full English breakfast.
BUT, I couldn't help but feel that beneath all of this filmmaking, was a piece of political propaganda - pulling in our 21st century audiences with fabricated images of 'Great Britain' and our defining moments. Specifically, the bumclenching (but undeniably heart-tugging and beautifully performed) London Underground scene, when Churchill listens to what the multicultural-working-class people want: it's a patronising melting pot inserted into the very upper class British-ness of the film, with Brexit- underpinnings. This is the darkest hour, when 'the people' have a voice, down below, for a fleeting moment. And confusingly it's a very enjoyable, and anticipated moment in the film. But is it genuine? Either way, it's certainly "Oscar-Worthy."