Darkest Hour – Joe Wright

Darkest Hour starring Gary Oldman, Kristin Scott Thomas, and Ben Mendelsohn.
Photo Credit: Jack English/Focus Features

It’s a movie that was made for the Oscars; you have a brilliant performance of a historical figure, impressive makeup and costume to go with the times, the inclusion of a powerful wartime speech, and artistic camera work. Darkest Hour is not the best movie to come out in 2017, not by a long shot, but no one can argue it’s a quality film and quite enjoyable. You get a glimpse into Winston Churchill’s battle to gain the trust of the Cabinet when he takes over as British Prime Minister for Neville Chamberlain in the early days of World War II.

It actually fits in really well with another film that was featured in the same Best Picture category at the Oscars – Dunkirk. They take place at the same time and it would benefit moviegoers to watch them both for historical purposes. It’s a time in history that not everyone is familiar with and it’s very interesting to see things happen from the soldiers’ perspectives as well as the political perspective. The two films couldn’t be more different but they stay true to their perspectives: the soldier’s point of view is action-based while a politician’s point of view is all about words.

Most people can agree that Gary Oldman deserved an Oscar a long time ago. He finally took one home at the 90th Academy Awards in early March for his portrayal of Churchill. It wasn’t even a question that he would win. He disappears into the character and brings a lot of spunk to a man most people have only read about in history classes. But of course his performance wouldn’t have been as effective without the makeup team, so the three of them also brought home Oscar for their efforts in Darkest Hour. The supporting cast of Kristin Scott Thomas, Lily James, and Ben Mendelsohn is good, but be under no false illusion that Darkest Hour is anything but the ‘Gary Oldman Show’. It’s a mere snapshot in time after all, when Churchill was facing his biggest decisions as Prime Minister, so most other characters are just filler.

In addition to Best Actor in a Leading Role (won), Best Picture, and Best Makeup and Hairstyling (won), Darkest Hour was also nominated for Best Cinematography. It’s one of those things that is actually hard to ignore in this film. If it’s something you don’t usually notice, you likely will notice it here.

Darkest Hour takes place at a time in history where things could have gone very differently for Britain, and the rest of the world. It’s not an edge-of-your-seat thriller but you definitely feel the sense of urgency. Knowing the outcome, the movie is done in such a way that makes you want to slap some sense into the opposition. During Churchill’s speeches you may even find yourself thinking, “Damn straight! You tell ‘em Winston!”. It’s as close to a universally enjoyable movie as you can get without being animated and released by Pixar. At just over 2 hours it’s a fairly standard run-time for a film of this nature. There is also no content in it that would be any cause for concern while watching with family, young or old. It’ll make you giggle, make you cheer (internally), and you might even learn a few things! If you’re a historian, as long as you forgive the filmmakers for taking dramatic license to tell the story, you won’t regret watching Churchill navigate through Britain’s “darkest hour”.

Watch the official trailer here:


Magic in the Moonlight – Woody Allen

Magic in the Moonlight starring Colin Firth, Emma Stone, Marcia Gay Harden, Jacki Weaver

Magic in the Moonlight starring Colin Firth, Emma Stone, Marcia Gay Harden, & Jacki Weaver

He did it again! Woody Allen is undoubtedly one of the greats, but his style and flavour don’t always appeal to the masses. His newest gem, however, has a light heartedness to it (not unlike his movie Scoop) that everyone can fall in love with.

Just as Blue Jasmine was seemingly written with Cate Blanchett in mind, it is impossible to imagine anyone other than Colin Firth playing the cynical magician Stanley Crawford in Woody Allen’s Magic in the Moonlight. Early on in the film, Stanley is tasked with debunking a young psychic medium’s claim that she can communicate with the dead and predict the future. He soon becomes enthralled by her abilities and can’t seem to crack the case. Emma Stone plays the lovely Sophie who appears to be using her talents to work her way into a prominent family residing in the beautiful French Riviera. While Stone’s performance compliments Firth’s, there is no denying his ability to captivate the audience with his delivery of often pessimistic and mocking sentiments, all the while remaining completely loveable. You watch Stanley’s view of life unravel before your eyes as he struggles to accept the idea of an afterlife as well as another foreign quality of life….happiness. Having been unashamedly logical and certain of everything in his life, this seemingly unsolvable mystery changes everything.

Like most Woody Allen films, the plot is simple and easy to follow; it’s the writing and the characters that make the movie an absolute delight to watch. Magic in the Moonlight has the air of an older film (it is set in the 1920’s after all) where witty dialogue, a cleverly placed twist, and a satisfying ending are the key components. While the location is undeniably lovely, there is no elaborate set design and the costumes suit the time period but do not distract from the rest of the film. The balance is perfect.

At just over an hour and a half, the length of the film is ideal. Unlike other summer movies, it is one that can easily be fit into a weekday evening after work and won’t leave you emotionally or physically drained. It is virtually a guarantee that you will be grinning like an idiot throughout the entire thing, so the most you will leave with are sore cheeks.