TLDNW: Darkest Hour

The phrase TLDNR (Too Long, Did Not Read) is for posts on the Internet that you want to know about but can’t be bothered to read. This is a segment called TLDNW (Too Long, Did Not Watch). It’s for people that just don’t have time to go to the movies. Now, I work pretty hard every year to see the entire list of films nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars. You probably won’t get to all of them, because I assume you have a social life. Luckily for you, it is my goal in the following weeks to post reviews of the 2018 Oscar-nominated best pictures so that you can be caught up before the big night.

However, I know even reading a whole review is time-consuming and not for everyone. Many people just look at the star rating and don’t bother with the rest of the review. Even now you’re probably bored of this introduction.

So I’ll make it short and sweet. For every movie I review, I’ll include three sections: 1) A 1-word review.  2) A 20-word review so you have things to say about the film when your friends ask if you saw it. 3) An in-depth 500-word review.

BONUS: This year, I’ve added bonus content baby! This year I will be reading each review in a podcast format if you don’t even time to READ. There will be a podcast of me reading each review and THEN a bonus podcast where I discuss the film with a fellow film friend.

TLDNW: 1 Word

3/4

Pressurized

TLDNW: 20 Words

★★★/★★★★

A powder keg. Like Churchill the man, this film is brash and bold and loud. A pressure cooker of a movie.

TLDNW: 500 Words

Three out of Four Stars

I have been asking myself lately why we’ve seen so many Churchills this year. John Lithgow plays him beautifully on The Crown. Brian Cox plays him less beautifully in the biopic Churchill (don’t worry, no one saw it.) Michael Gambon played him last year in the TV movie Churchill’s Secret. And here we have screen legend Gary Oldman giving his finest performance yet as the British bulldog. One might assume that it is just a case of simultaneous thought or a case of Twin Movies (a phenomenon you should look up because it’s bonkers) but I think there’s something more going on here.

In today’s political climate a Churchill biopic seems oddly fitting. Audiences are shown a brash, know-it-all, political black sheep who says whatever he feels. Does this not feel a little of the times? It honestly makes me wonder how the carrot that reigns beneath us will be portrayed in a hundred years. Churchill certainly was no saint and straight up LIED to the press about Britain’s standings in the war effort. Many still see Churchill as a less-than-perfect political figure. So the question that has been bothering me is “why?” Why now? Why Churchill?

I think the answer rests in Joe Wright’s film Darkest Hour. The film chronicles Churchill’s rise to power after being appointed prime minister in the wake of Neville Chamberlin’s resignation to Churchill’s infamous speech after the fall of Dunkirk. It’s a short period of time and is filmed in a compressed way. In fact, the whole film feels pressurized. The film, like Churchill himself, is a powder keg of intensity. Whole sequences are shot in the war bunker at parliament and cast with a red hue. Churchill is portrayed by, the certain to win the Oscar, Gary Oldman as a tightly wound, crass, pressurized man. Here, however, is where we find out answer to “why now? Why Churchill?” The answer rests entirely on the way Joe Wright shoots Oldman. Occasionally he shows Churchill from very close. He points the camera directly into the jowls of the infamous prime minister and has Oldman scream as loudly as he can. This is the classic portrayal of Churchill and certainly the closest to our current day leader south of the border. However, Wright carefully inserts beautifully tender shots of Churchill looking small. There are shots where Churchill is alone in a room, or far in the background, surrounded by objects larger than him and he looks positively tiny. He sits with a signature-stooped stature and appears to have the whole weight of Britain on his shoulders. This portrayal, this Churchill is the answer to why we’ve become obsessed with him in recent years. He is complex. He’s not perfect and he’s certainly not well liked – but he is at least complex. He understands the gravity of his work, of his actions. He, at least as depicted by Wright, is conflicted. This is what we are missing from the current administration. We’ve got loud and verbose covered, what we need is complexity.

And this is the brilliance of Darkest Hour. Despite its flaws as a film (standard editing, score, and script) it shines a light on one of histories most conflicted leaders in a way that makes him human. This is why we’re obsessed. This is why there have been four Churchills in the past two years- because despite his flaws, you cannot argue that he wasn’t complex. I just think it wasn’t until Joe Wright took the helm for us to truly see this side of the man.

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