Monday, January 29, 2018

Caught an Out-of-Character Movie Today

Regular readers will know that my taste in movies tends to escapist things like Sci-Fi and comic book movies, not serious films about the human condition.  Today we went to see Darkest Hour, the movie about the first days of Winston Churchill's term as Prime Minister of the UK. 

Over the years, I've realized that my education in history is lacking, and while I think the movie is historically solid, I'm not enough of a Churchill scholar to know.  Larry P. Arnn, president of Hillsdale College and an actual Churchill scholar, though, says it is and it's worth seeing.  For my part, I've always been an admirer of Churchill, although in the last 20 years I've come to wonder if I really know the man or just a mythology that percolated around America in the 60s to early 70s; while I had the various history classes I was required to take.

I haven't heard much about it besides recommendations from Rush to see it.  All I had really heard was that Gary Oldman did a wonderful job of capturing him and should get a Best Actor Oscar for the movie.  What I hadn't heard was about the great supporting cast, including Dame Kristin Scott Thomas as his wife, Clemmie, and Lily James as his secretary Liz Layton.     
(Gary Oldman and Kristin Scott Thomas - studio photo)

This is not a bright and cheery movie.  What little humor there is comes from Churchill's quips to other people and one or two witty moments.  It depicts Churchill in a politically awful position, given the position just as Europe is falling to Nazi Germany; resented awfully by the man he replaced, Neville Chamberlain, and the man who seemed to think he should have been given the role, Viscount Halifax.  Hitler's army is sweeping western Europe, pushing the English army onto the beaches of Dunkirk, while Austria and Holland fall, and France breaking down.  His military is telling him they can do nothing to rescue the Army from Dunkirk.  He wants to fight but is being told he has no military that can do anything.

I usually rate movies on a 1 to 5 scale, and I give this a 5.  The acting was remarkable and the way director Joe Wright chose camera angles created vivid imagery.  He'd choose things like the view out of the window of a limousine to drive home how Churchill was seeing people and things in the street, or aerial views to show the impact of the Nazi bombing in France, or a view of spiraling staircase with people moving every which way to convey how urgently busy everything was.   I think it's well worth seeing. 


  1. Haven't seen it yet, but from what I hear the only thing that's marginally objectionable from a historic viewpoint is how Chamberlain is portrayed. Churchill was very gracious to Chamberlain, and Chamberlain appreciated it greatly. Churchill did NOT have to include Chamberlain in his cabinet and no one would have blamed him if he'd excluded him. But other than that, from what I've been told, the movie is pretty spot on.

    1. I thought it depicted Churchill as being gracious to Chamberlain, but that Chamberlain had not reciprocated. Chamberlain and Halifax were depicted as having an active agreement to undermine Churchill.

      It's interesting you mention that for a different reason, though.

      A couple of weeks ago, when I was working on some things in the ham shack, I was listening to talk radio and heard an interview with a Brit who had just written a book about Chamberlain. He said he started the book because of stumbling across a document that said Hitler had thought that Chamberlain had "won" in the (in)famous Munich agreement. I'd never heard that.

    2. Followup: I believe the book is Munich a novel by Robert Harris.