Combustible Celluloid
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With: Gary Oldman, Lily James, Kristin Scott Thomas, Ben Mendelsohn, Stephen Dillane, Ronald Pickup, Nicholas Jones, Richard Lumsden, Jeremy Child
Written by: Anthony McCarten
Directed by: Joe Wright
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some thematic material
Running Time: 125
Date: 12/08/2017

Darkest Hour (2017)

3 Stars (out of 4)

A Capital Churchill

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Joe Wright's Darkest Hour is just the kind of thing that pops up every awards season, with a big, blustery, makeup-covered performance at its center. But this one, telling the story of Winston Churchill as he becomes Prime Minister in 1940 and must decide what to do about WWII, remains dynamic and energetic, despite its limited, mostly interior settings. Gary Oldman plays Churchill, and suffice to say that if he finally wins an Oscar, it will not be undeserved. Kristin Scott Thomas is terrific as his spunky wife Clementine, who tells him things like "with such power you must be more kind" (an apt thing for our times as well). And Ben Mendelsohn gives the movie its best stuff as King George, a.k.a. "Bertie" (of The King's Speech); his handful of meetings with Churchill are the heart and spine of the movie. They can't stand each other at first, but slowly develop a fascinating relationship. Lily James is technically the main character, a secretary to Churchill, and our eyes and ears for everything, but as with most characters of this type, she's somewhat passive. Wright pours everything into intuitive, brilliant staging and design, as well as sequences of fluid camerawork and kinetic editing, to keep everything alive. And it works. This is, weirdly, the third movie of 2017 about the events at Dunkirk, after Lone Scherfig's Their Finest and Christopher Nolan's Dunkirk.

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