A quintessential Academy Awards puff-piece in which an iconic historical figure is brought to life by a celebrated thespian, Joe Wright's Darkest Hour is a tedious, by-the-numbers slog that simply can't be saved by Gary Oldman's head-turning performance alone. The treatment itself, centered around Churchill's unwillingness to accept the potential for a peace accord with Hitler, is a juicy enough slice from the historical figures' life, yet the film finds itself bogged down by a painstakingly didactic screenplay, one soaked so heavily in inorganic humanism and forced sentimentality that eye roll induction by the audience may be a foregone conclusion. The film shows little interest in deconstructing the headspace a man whose been granted extreme authority in such a tumultuous time in European and World History, intent instead on simply going through the motions themselves without providing any true psychological context, a tremendous mistake and missed opportunity. Wright's direction is stylish yet overwrought, featuring an aesthetic which juxtaposes darkness and light in vivid detail, with sunlight itself feeling accentuated throughout the film's running time, a force that pierces through the dark, dusty old exteriors, a symbolic representation of hope much like Churchill himself, a man whom would not succumb to the Nazi regime and the darkness it stood for. While perhaps a little over-the-top, Joe Wright's visual design is expressionistic and lived-in, and along with Gary Oldman's performance Darkest Hour simply should have been more connective and engaging than it is, which is perhaps a perfunctory testament to a plodding, tepid screenplay, one which never attempts to dig into the psyche of this character, a man whom came face-to-face with evil with the fate of his countryman, and perhaps the world itself, hanging in the balance.
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