Darkest Hour is a 2017 British and American war drama film directed by Joe Wright and written by Anthony McCarten. It stars Gary Oldman as Winston Churchill, and is an account of his early days as Prime Minister, as Nazi Germany swept across Western Europe, threatening to defeat the United Kingdom during World War II. It leads to friction at the highest levels of government between those who would make a peace treaty with Hitler, and Churchill, who refused to accept the idea. The film also stars Kristin Scott Thomas, Lily James, Ben Mendelsohn, Stephen Dillane, and Ronald Pickup.
Many critics noted Gary Oldman's performance as one of the best of his career. For his performance, he won the Academy Award for Best Actor, the BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role, Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Drama and the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role. At the 90th Academy Awards the film earned six nominations, including Best Picture, and won for Best Actor and Best Makeup and Hairstyling. At the 71st British Academy Film Awards it received nine nominations, winning two.
On 5th February 2015, it was announced that Working Title Films had acquired Darkest Hour, a speculative screenplay by The Theory of Everything screenwriter Anthony McCarten, about Winston Churchill in the early days of World War II.
On 29th March 2016, it was reported that Joe Wright was in talks to direct the film. In April 2016, Gary Oldman was reported to be in talks to play Churchill. On 6th September 2016, it was announced that Focus Features would release the film in the United States on 24th November 2017. Ben Mendelsohn was set to play King George VI and Kristin Scott Thomas was cast as Clementine Churchill. On 8th November 2016, Stephen Dillane joined the cast.
By November 2016, Darkest Hour had begun principal photography, and it was reported that Dario Marianelli would score the film. For his role as Churchill, Oldman spent over 200 hours having make-up applied, and smoked over 400 cigars, worth about £16,000. Filming took place in Manchester, at both the Town Hall and John Rylands Library, both doubling for the Houses of Parliament.
John Hurt was initially cast as British prime minister Neville Chamberlain. However, according to Oldman, Hurt was undergoing treatment for pancreatic cancer and was unable to attend the read-throughs. Ronald Pickup assumed the role of Chamberlain instead. Hurt died from cancer in January 2017.
The film had its world premiere at the Telluride Film Festival on 1st September 2017, and also screened at the Toronto International Film Festival. It began a limited release in the United States on 22nd November 2017, followed by general release on 22nd December, and was released on 12th January 2018 in the United Kingdom.
On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 86% based on 250 reviews, with an average rating of 7.3/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "Darkest Hour is held together by Gary Oldman's electrifying performance, which brings Winston Churchill to life even when the movie's narrative falters." On Metacritic, which assigns a weighted average rating to reviews, the film has a normalised score of 75 out of 100, based on 50 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".
Oldman received praise for his performance, with numerous critics labelling him a frontrunner to win the Academy Award for Best Actor, an award he would later go on to win. Peter Travers of Rolling Stone wrote: "Get busy engraving Oldman's name on an Oscar... those fearing that Darkest Hour is nothing but a dull tableau of blowhard stuffed shirts will be relieved to know that they're in for a lively, provocative historical drama that runs on its own nonstop creative fire." David Ehrlich of IndieWire praised Wright's direction and the musical score, writing: "Unfolding with the clockwork precision of a Broadway play... it's a deliciously unsubtle testament to the power of words and their infinite capacity to inspire."
Gary Oldman won the Academy Award for Best Actor, the BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role, Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Drama and the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role.
At the 90th Academy Awards, the film earned six nominations, including Best Picture, and won for Best Actor and Best Makeup & Hairstyling. At the 71st British Academy Film Awards it received nine nominations, winning two, for Best Actor in a Leading Role and for Makeup & Hair. The film also won the Critic'sChoice Award for Best Picture.
Gary Oldman as Winston Churchill
Kristin Scott Thomas as Clementine Churchill
Lily James as Elizabeth Layton
Ben Mendelsohn as King George VI
Stephen Dillane as Edward Wood, 3rd Viscount Halifax
Ronald Pickup as Neville Chamberlain
Nicholas Jones as John Simon, 1st Viscount Simon
Samuel West as Anthony Eden
David Schofield as Clement Attlee
Richard Lumsden as Major-General Hastings Ismay
Malcolm Storry as General Sir Edmund Ironside
Hilton McRae as Arthur Greenwood
Benjamin Whitrow as Sir Samuel Hoare
Joe Armstrong as John Evans
Adrian Rawlins as Air Chief Marshal Sir Hugh Dowding
David Bamber as Vice-Admiral Bertram Ramsay
David Strathairn as Franklin D. Roosevelt (voice only)
Jeremy Child as James Stanhope, 7th Earl Stanhope
Brian Pettifer as Sir Kingsley Wood
Michael Gould as Charles Vane-Tempest-Stewart, 7th Marquess of Londonderry
John Atterbury as Sir Alexander Cadogan