Darkest Hour

2018, Uncategorized

Dir. Joe Wright

Starring: Gary Oldman, Lily James, Kristin Scott-Thomas, Ben Medelsohn, Ronald Pickup, and Stephen Dillane.

Joe Wright is a curious director. Hailed as a visionary by many, his CV is an eclectic mix of action movie (Hanna), fantasy romp (Pan), and futuristic television (he directed the episode Nosedive for Black Mirror). Wright always comes back though, to what could be described as his bread and butter, historical dramas. It’s in period pieces such as Pride and Prejudice, and Atonement where Wright really made his name. Here, he returns to the well once again, in fact the most famous shot in Wrights career was the Dunkirk beach sequence in Atonement, the events of which this movie is based around. It’s a return to form after the bizarre mess that was Pan, and sees the director pair one of Britains greatest ever actors with one of its most iconic men.

Darkest Hour starts with the resignation of Neville Chamberlain, a war time Prime Minister who has lost the support of the house. The Conservative party decide to place Winston Churchill in charge, a man who whilst controversial within his own party would have the support of the Labour Party. Churchill is elected at the beginning of May 1940, and the film tells the trials and tribulations of his first month as PM. He has to deal with a Europe which is slowly succumbing to the onslaught from Nazi Germany, the crisis at Dunkirk, and dissent from within his own party, who are looking to oust him if he doesn’t consider peace talks with Hitler.

It’s almost unavoidable to talk about this film and not mention the acting. Gary Oldman gives us a true masterclass in the craft. Joe Wright and Oldman blend make-up, acting, writing, and direction together to portray a completely believable, absorbing character. At first you marvel at the job that Oldman is doing, and then you forget it’s Gary Oldman, for the next hour and a half you are watching Winston Churchill. Oldman doesn’t just play the icon though, he imbues Churchill with a humanity. If the blustering speeches get the headlines, it’s Oldman’s work at showing us the frailty of the man which is truly spectacular. Wright surrounds Oldman with fantastic actors as well. Lily James is wonderful, but it’s Kristin Scott-Thomas and Ben Medelsohn who really shine, having a huge impact with very little screen time. Scott-Thomas, as Churchill’s wife portraying the stoic nature of her sacrifice, and the love she has for her husband. Mendelsohn as King George, putting in an understated but moving performance.

Wright makes the history and politics easy to follow, and accessible. It’s a character piece which takes it cues from Shakespearean plays, and the stories of Roman emperors. The action is confined to the war room, and to the back stabbing political world. The war is reduced to aerial shots, offering us context to Churchill’s inner turmoil. It’s in Wright’s direction that the film excels. For a film whose characters actions have such wide spread global repercussions, Wright keeps it incredibly claustrophobic. It’s mostly shot inside, with very little light. Wright takes joy in juxtaposing Churchill’s political position with that of his nation. See how the camera gets tighter on Churchill’s face as both the fate of those at Dunkirk gets more dire, and his party push him towards peace talks; or how he frames a telephone call between Churchill and President Roosevelt, linking how isolated Churchill had become, and in turn Britain had become. Wright ratchets up the tension to unbearable levels, similar to the feat Christopher Nolan pulled off with Dunkirk.

This is not a flawless film though. Having such a tight focus on just one month of Churchill’s time in office, there will always be avenues you wish had been explored further. Kristin Scott-Thomas does fantastically well with very little, but you do wish this relationship had been explored further. Similarly, Lily James’ Elizabeth Layton, acts as a great entry point for the audience, but you wish she had been given a bit more character. There is also a sequence on an underground train, which has the potential to de-rail the whole film. Although Churchill had a reputation for popping up in different parts of London to speak to the public, there is no evidence of this scene ever taking place. It’s placement in the film feels very convenient, and for a film which had done so much with subtleties, it feels too on the nose. It also destroys the momentum that had been building.

Darkest Hour is a terrific character study of Winston Churchill, and Gary Oldman’s performance will go down as one of the all time greats. Wright uses his film to say some great things about standing behind your convictions, and having courage under fire. It’s about making those hard decisions, to stand behind your principles even if it means complete annihilation. It’s minimalistic in style, but Wright still adds some flourishes, a transition from a bombed battlefield to a fallen soldiers face being a stand out. It’s a well put together film, that can’t help but stumble in places.

7/10

71st British Academy Film Awards – Breakdown

2018, Uncategorized

Last night saw the Royal Albert Hall play host to the 71st Annual British Academy Film Awards, or as they are most commonly know, the BAFTA’S. Although not as coveted as the OSCAR’s, the BAFTA’s are the biggest night in film this side of the Atlantic. Of course, all awards are rather trivial, a chance for the industry to pat themselves on the back, but they are still incredibly important. It’s a great chance to celebrate the previous year in film, and to bring attention to some amazing work that might otherwise go un-noticed. Your favourite film might not win, or even get nominated, which is always frustrating and you could spend your time moaning about this, but where’s the fun in that. Here we will go through all of last nights big winners.

Best Film

Call Me By Your Name
Darkest Hour
Dunkirk
The Shape Of Water
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

I’ll admit that I’ve only seen three out of these five movies, but out of the films on this list that I had seen, Three Billboards was a well deserved winner. Dunkirk was great, but maybe lacked the emotional resonance to really compete. The Shape Of Water was also fantastic, for me it was a close race between this and Three Billboards.

Outstanding British Film

Darkest Hour
The Death Of Stalin
God’s Own Country
Lady Macbeth
Paddington 2
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Three Billboards won again, which makes complete sense that the best film would also be the best British film. Personally, I would have loved to have seen Paddington 2 pick up the award, but there are some great films on this list. All worth a watch.

Best Animated Film

Coco
Loving Vincent
My Life As A Courgette

I loved Coco. It’s another well deserved win. The other two movies are definitely worth checking out, but Pixar are maintaining their dominance over this category. Hopefully, one day they’ll recognise them as the Best Picture.

Best Documentary

City Of Ghosts
I Am Not Your Negro
Icarus
An inconvenient Sequel
Jane

I haven’t seen any of these. I love my documentaries, but I usually wait until after awards season to check out the best the year had to offer.

Best Director

Denis Villeneuve, Blade Runner 2049
Luca Guadagnino, Call Me By Your Name
Christopher Nolan, Dunkirk
Guillermo Del Toro, The Shape Of Water
Martin McDonagh, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

The Shape Of Water may have missed out on Best Film, but Guillermo picked up his Best Directors award, in a pattern I think will be repeated at the OSCAR’s. The Shape Of Water is a beautifully directed movie, and Guillermo is one of our most unique directors. Nolan must be thinking that he’s another Scorsese, on of the best directors of his time, but never recognised during awards season.

Best Actor

Daniel Day Lewis, Phantom Thread
Daniel Kayuula, Get Out
Gary Oldman, Darkest Hour
Jamie Bell, Film Stars Don’t Die In Liverpool
Timothée Chalamet, Call Me By Your Name

This was the biggest non-surprise of the night. They’re all great performances, but there was only ever one winner here. Gary Oldman continues his winning streak with his portrayal of Winston Churchill. It’s a shame though that these award ceremonies are okay with the make-up used to enhance Oldman’s performance, but are yet to recognise Andy Serkis’ mo-cap assisted performances.

Best Actress

Annette Benning, Film Stars Don’t Die In Liverpool
Frances McDormand, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Margot Robbie, I,Tonya
Sally Hawkins, The Shape Of Water
Saoirse Ronan, Lady Bird

When the nominations came out, I thought this might have been the closest run category. The performances here are all fantastic, but McDormand delivers a tour-de-force performance which can’t help but grab all the attention.

Best Supporting Actor

Christopher Plummer, All The Money In The World
Hugh Grant, Paddington 2
Sam Rockwell, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Willem Defoe, The Florida Project
Woody Harrelson, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Again, no real surprises here. Some may have been hoping for an upset with Willem Defoe snatching it, but that would have meant some people actually saw The Florida Project. Sam Rockwell has been great for ages, and it’s nice to see him getting recognised.

Best Supporting Actress

Allison Janney, I, Tonya
Kristin Scott Thomas, Darkest Hour
Laurie Metcalf, Lady Bird
Lesley Manville, Phantom Thread
Octavia Spencer, The Shape Of Water

Heading into awards season, it seemed that this was a two horse race between Allison Janney, and Laurie Metcalf, but it seems now that Janney is set to sweep the board. Best known for her role in The West Wing, it’s great to see another fabulous character actor get some accolades.

Best Original Screenplay

Get Out
I, Tonya,
Lady Bird
The Shape Of Water
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Whilst we would have all loved to see Get Out win some awards, it’s clear to see that Three Billboards is the most showy screenplay in this category. It’s full of fantastic dialogue, and deals with complex issues. This was the hardest category of the night for me, as they’re all great.

Best Adapted Screenplay

Call Me By Your Name
The Death Of Stalin
Film Stars Don’t Die In Liverpool
Molly’s Game
Paddington 2

I haven’t seen Call Me By Your Name Yet, and I did really enjoy Molly’s Game, but Paddington 2 should have won.

That’s it for the main categories of the night. It was a predictable night, and I’m hoping for a few more upsets at the OSCAR’s. Three Billboards was the big winner, and now seems most likely for Best Picture at the OSCAR’s, although The Shape Of Water might have something to say about that.

Below you can find the list of all the other winners. Special mention to Daniel Kaluuya for his EE Rising Star Award, and Ridley Scott for his Fellowship.

EE Rising Star: Daniel Kaluuya
Best Original Music: The Shape Of Water
Best Make Up And Hair: Darkest Hour
Best Costume Design: Phantom Thread
Best Editing: Baby Driver
Outstanding British Contribution To Film: National Film and Television School
Best British Short Animation: Poles Apart
Best British Short Film: Cowboy Dave
Best Film Not In The English Language: The Handmaiden
Best Production Design: The Shape Of Water
Best Special Visual Effects: Blade Runner 2049
Outstanding Debut by a British Writer, Director or Producer: I Am Not A Witch
Best Sound: Dunkirk
Best Cinematography: Blade Runner 2049
BAFTA Fellowship: Ridley Scott