Film Review: Darkest Hour (2017)

Release Date: September 1st, 2017 (Telluride)
Directed by: Joe Wright
Written by: Anthony McCarten
Music by: Dario Marianelli
Cast: Gary Oldman, Kristin Scott Thomas, Lily James, Stephen Dillane, Ronald Pickup, Ben Mendelsohn

Perfect World Pictures, Working Title Films, Focus Features, 125 Minutes


“You can not reason with a tiger when your head is in its mouth.” – Winston Churchill

Now that there are nine or so films nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards, there is more competition and it opens the floor up to more films that may otherwise get snubbed. But on the flip side of that, sometimes there are pictures that work their way onto the ballot that shouldn’t be there. Actually, it’s pretty common now. Darkest Hour is one of those films.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed it enough to leave with a positive opinion of the film but if a movie is nominated for Best Picture of the Year, it had better be pretty damn exceptional.

Darkest Hour boasts some incredible acting but to be brutally honest, even great acting can’t save a disjointed and oddly paced film. While I was pulled into Gary Oldman’s Churchill, as he dominated nearly every scene, the film just shifted around like loose marbles in a shoe box. I felt like a cat watching a laser pointer.

While the film has also been nominated for Best Cinematography, I didn’t like it at all. The picture was dark and smudgy. Maybe the projector was on the fritz in my theater but the trailers before the movie all looked normal. This was a film shot with boring colors in dark places with high contrast lighting. While that can be presented well, I felt like I was watching a big television event from a major network in the ’90s and not a major motion picture on the big screen in 2018. The presentation made it feel like a mid-’90s BBC docudrama.

The strength of the film is the performances by the actors, especially Oldman and Ben Mendelsohn, as the King. The two women, Kristin Scott Thomas and Lily James, also did fine work but were limited in their roles, as Churchill was always the film’s primary focal point. Another strength was the presentation of Churchill, as Oldman’s transformation looked seamless and perfect.

The film only covers the few weeks between Churchill’s rise to the role of Prime Minister to the moment where he decides whether he is going to go to war with the Nazis or negotiate a treaty. We all know how this ends but it’s how he came to his decision that is the gist of the film’s story. While parts of the film drag and should have been whittled down, the last twenty minutes or so were really solid.

Darkest Hour was a good movie but it lacked in a lot of areas that a Picture of the Year nominee shouldn’t. But the Academy is incredibly political and that could very well be the reason why this is getting major accolades.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: Dunkirk, I mean… they happen at the same time and both films came out in the same year.

Documentary Review: My Life Directed by Nicolas Winding Refn (2014)

Release Date: July 17th, 2014
Directed by: Liv Corfixen
Music by: Cliff Martinez

58 Minutes


Nicolas Winding Refn is one of the best younger directors out there. He’s got a slew of films now but he’s still a younger breed of filmmaker like Darren Aronofsky and Christopher Nolan.

Some films have been near perfect and a few have missed their mark. One such film that missed the mark a bit was Only God Forgives. This documentary follows Refn during the process of directing that film.

This is an enlightening view into a director’s life at his most stressful and most creative. Refn has no reservations in showing his struggles and expressing his concerns and doubts throughout the filmmaking process. It also shows how he directs, organizes his projects and leads his cast and staff. Only God Forgives is a film where Refn had trouble trying to execute his vision.

My favorite parts about the film, other than being a real human story, are seeing how Refn directs action and how he changes things on a whim when he’s standing in the middle of a set and seeing how everything flows.

Ryan Gosling is also very prominent in this documentary, being that he is Refn’s star, regular collaborator and good friend. The film also showcases Refn’s working relationship with the great Kristin Scott Thomas and Thai actor Vithaya Pansringarm.

This is a short documentary, less than an hour. It is certainly worth a watch if you are a fan of filmmaking or Refn’s work. And ladies, you can just stare into the magical doe-like eyes of the Gosling.

This was streaming on Netflix, I’m not sure if it still is.