Before the chaos of Brexit, there was a time in the United Kingdom’s history where our future was in an even more dangerous state. When we, and Europe alike, were on the cusp of complete collapse at the hands of Hitler’s Nazi invasion.You’ll probably remember the seismic scale of the challenges Britain faced from that Dunkirk movie that came out a mere number of months ago. Yes, this is the second film in the space of a year that includes the famous story of political negligence and heroic spirit in equal measure. However, Darkest Hour uses the events of Dunkirk as a backdrop to the story of Winston Churchill’s appointment as Prime Minister and the five weeks leading up to the evacuation. You may be familiar with director Joe Wright from that other Dunkirk-ish movie Atonement and the 2005 Pride and Prejudice adaptation. Wright’s hankering for the melodramatic is on display in Darkest Hour, which comes as no surprise given Churchill’s own theatrical manor and eloquent, rousing speeches.
The film opens with the all-too-familiar sight of hundreds of old white men with receding hairlines shouting at each other in the House of Commons. Within the anarchy sits the dejected and ill-looking Neville Chamberlain (Ronald Pickup) who is at the end of his tenure as Prime Minister. Churchill is presented after a couple of scenes to give him a suitable and highly-anticipated introduction which, unsurprisingly, involves him lighting his iconic cigar.
This is a powerful image which interrupts the frame’s complete darkness and gives the audience the first glimpse of Gary Oldman’s depiction of the British hero. Despite the incredible and hi-tech prosthetics, Oldman can just about be seen beneath the fake chub and staggering make-up. More importantly though, his distinguished presence can still be felt from under the disguise. The illustrious actor is undoubtedly the highlight of the film, with a performance which captures the bulldog-esque public ideal of Churchill, and indeed the more reserved and depression-addled truth of the wartime Prime Minister.
This isn’t the most historically accurate movie, even with the gargantuan calendar that appears incessantly throughout the movie. However, what is fabricated, is for the sole purpose of highlighting the true parts of Churchill’s character. The mawkish tube scene is by all accounts false, but it does reveal the Prime Minister’s dedication to the public. Similarly, Lily James’ character Elizabeth Layton is a real person, but was not involved in Churchill’s life until after the events of the film. But, she does a lot to coax the dichotomy of hard exterior and inner sensitivity out of Winston. In fact, many characters are simply pawns in revealing more about Churchill. Ben Mendelsohn’s portrayal of King George VI is far colder than that of Colin Firth’s in The King’s Speech, but reveals the dissonance between the Prime Minister’s down to Earth character and the pompous prestige of the British Royal Family.
The cinematography captures the Britain of the 1940’s fairly comprehensively, but excels in capturing the impending doom of both the nation and Churchill. There are a couple of great moments where Winston is in the centre of the frame in a claustrophobic environment, whether it’s the loo or an elevator, surrounded by darkness and completely alone. The film peaks at these points, where the dire situation feels inexorable and the tension is ramped up to the max.
I feel a bit harsh calling this predictable, as it’s based on well-known historical events, but as rousing as the ending is – you can see it coming a mile off. Like the entirety of the film, it lacks a little bit of imagination, but you can’t take away how perfectly Gary Oldman captures the iconic character.
Style – 7: Crying out for a Dunkirk mash-up
Substance – 6: A well thought out insight
Essentialness – 6: Will be shown in GCSE classes for years to come
After a great 12 months of movies in 2017, it’s time to preview the most exciting films of the upcoming year.
A24 smashed it out of the park last year with the likes of The Disaster Artist, The Florida Project and Moonlight all being certified classics. They have a host of delights set for 2018 as the new, and bold, face of American independent cinema. On the flipside, there are several blockbusters hoping to perform better than some of the underwhelming attempts of 2017. As usual, there’s plenty to look forward to from around the globe with some truly tantalising projects set for release later in the year. Below is a countdown of our 18 most anticipated movies.
Adam McKay has long been the face of American comedy, but in recent years he has swayed, albeit not completely, to dramatic directorial projects. Following up from The Big Short, McKay again partners with currently unrecognisable Christian Bale, who has piled on the pounds to play politician Dick Cheney. The film focuses on the Vice President’s policies and their influence on the political landscape.
- Ocean’s 8
Soderbergh’s Ocean’s Trilogy was a landmark franchise of the noughties, from the great first instalment to the…underwhelming conclusion. Breathing fresh life into the concept is director Gary Ross, who has reduced the ensemble to eight, and compiled the group solely of women. The incredible cast includes Anne Hathaway, Cate Blanchett and even Rihanna.
- If Beale Street Could Talk
Moonlight director Barry Jenkins is back and with an adaptation of James Baldwin’s fifth novel by the same name. It focuses on a Harlem woman’s struggle to clear her husband-to-be’s name after a false rape allegation. Filming is not yet completed, but Dave Franco, Pedro Pascal, and Kiki Layne are all confirmed to star. Definitely not one to miss.
- First Man
Oscar darling Damien Chazelle pairs, yet again, with Ryan Gosling in a film that focuses on the 1969 Apollo mission to the moon. Gosling swaps the city of stars for actual stars, by playing leading man Neil Armstrong. Corey Stoll and Lukas Haas complete the moon-bound entourage in what is Chazelle’s first feature not incorporating musical elements.
- Mary Magdalene
Joaquin Phoenix and Rooney Mara team up as Jesus and Mary Magdalene in this biblical drama. The film focuses on the story of Magdalene and her desertion of her family in search for something more. Chiwetel Ejiofor and Tahar Rahim also star in Lion director Garth Davis’ latest.
- God Particle
This may not be the title when the film comes out, but what is clear is that it’s another addition to the Cloverfield universe. The original Cloverfield movie may have been divisive but it certainly sent a shockwave throughout the industry. 10 Cloverfield Lane was a lowkey project that delighted audiences with great performances from John Goodman and Mary Elizabeth Winstead in a claustrophobic bunker. This instalment takes the action to space for another fresh perspective on the alien-invaded universe.
- The Shape of Water
Guillermo Del Toro has proven his aptitude when creating stunning fantasy films and returns with yet another. The film centres on a relationship between a lonely janitor (Sally Hawkins) and amphibious creature that is in captivity during the 1960’s. Michael Shannon is the major sceptic that stands in the way of the unlikely pairing.
- Black Panther
Yet another Marvel film, only this time Creed Director Ryan Coogley is in charge. Chadwick Boseman stars as Black Panther in the character’s first feature after cameoing in Captain America: Civil War. The movie looks to have an edge different to the Marvel canon, with an incredibly exciting soundtrack being curated by Kendrick Lamar.
- 120 Beats Per Minute
A gut-wrenching story of the AIDS crisis in early 1990s Paris. Director Robin Campillo tells a deeply personal story about the advocacy group ACT UP who set out to change the government, and the public’s, perception of the disease. With the help of some stunning camera work and cinematography, this is a phenomenal and unmissable film.
- Solo: A Star Wars Story
The second Star Wars Story focuses on the adventures of Han Solo and Chewbacca before they were introduced in A New Hope. Playing Solo is not a digitally restored Harrison Ford, but instead it is Alden Ehrenreich who carries the burden of the iconic character. Alongside him is Donald Glover as a young Lando Calrissian in the film’s most exciting casting.
An intriguing set up sees a mute bartender challenge a city’s gangsters to solve the mystery of his partner’s disappearance. If that doesn’t entice you enough, Duncan Jones (Moon) is directing with Paul Rudd and Justin Theroux starring in the neon-lit caper.
- Incredibles 2
A sequel to one of the most highly regarded animations of the 21st century is sure to be a hit later this year. The main cast are all set to return, along with Ednaaa Mooode and brief villain The Underminer.
- A Wrinkle in Time
The phenomenal Ava DuVernay (Thelma) is the director of this Disney juggernaut whose aesthetic is reminiscent of The Matrix, Interstellar and even Jodorowsky’s Holy Mountain. Chris Pine stars as an absent father who is stuck in a bizarre and evil land where he will attempt to be rescued from. It boasts a cohort of talented actresses including Reese Witherspoon and Mindy Kaling.
After the success of Ex Machina, Alex Garland returns with a similarly enigmatic and cryptic project. The long-awaited trailer revealed very little about the film, which stars Natalie Portman and Jennifer Jason Leigh. Portman is mysteriously credited as The Biologist, who agrees to embark on an escapade where the laws of nature are worryingly malleable.
- Lady Bird
Saoirse Ronan shines in this personal and extremely well-executed coming of age story. Greta Gerwig’s directorial debut takes us back in time to the early 2000s where Christine, or “Lady Bird”, manoeuvres through adolescence in a charmingly clumsy manner. There’s also a great cameo from Timothée Chalamet to boot.
- The Beach Bum
Matthew McConaughey plays a stoner called Moondog. Need we say more?
- You Were Never Really Here
A film with an incredible amount of buzz, with renowned director Lynne Ramsay and Joaquin Phoenix joining forces to create a piece of cinema which will no doubt be masterful. Phoenix plays a tormented enforcer who is brutally violent and determined to complete a rescue mission.
- Isle of Dogs
Wes Anderson is widely considered one of the best directorial minds of his generation and rightly so. His second stop-motion animation adventure boasts one of the best cast lists in recent history, including Bill Murray, Tilda Swinton and Yoko Ono. Inspired heavily by Kurosawa, the story follows a boy’s journey to find his lost dog. SIGN US UP.
5 to Watch in January
Oscar darlings Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep team up in this latest Spielberg endeavour. Despite the Scandi-style poster, this is very much an American story about the battle between journalists and the US government, specifically the cover-up of their involvement in the Vietnam War.
Star Wars: The Last Jedi
The latest instalment to the record-breaking franchise combines a wonderful ode to the films of the past and a new, exciting style of direction. Rian Johnson has created a new breed of Star Wars which offers a bright future for the notorious galaxy.
Last Flag Flying
Richard Linklater once again proves his masterful script-writing talents in his most recent film. The outstanding main cast of Carrel, Cranston and Fishburne are superb in a story that sees three ex-marines embark on a journey to respectfully bury one of their sons who has died in battle.
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Frances McDormand is foul-mouthed and phenomenal in Martin McDonagh’s latest picture. She stars as a mother challenging the police after they fail to catch the person responsible for her daughter’s death.
Christian Bale plays a bigoted Army captain who must chaperon a Cheyenne chief through extremely volatile territories. The energy is palpable and offers an insight to the harshness of the US government in the 19th Century and beyond.
Words: Tom Williams
Images: 20th Century Fox