May 1940. With the Nazis beating the British Army back to the French shores and invasion imminent, Neville Chamberlain resigns as Prime Minister over calls for his ouster and accusations of appeasing Hitler. In his place steps the unlikely, unpopular in his own party, larger than life Winston Churchill (Gary Oldman) who must not only lead an improbable evacuation at Dunkirk but convince the nation that the favored capitulation to Germany is the absolute wrong move. Darkest Hours loses steam and much of its impressively sustained intensity towards the finale (including an ill-advised scene of Churchill riding the Underground and gaining affirmation from the people before his big “On the Beaches” speech) but is extremely well crafted throughout by Joe Wright and Oldman, under half a ton of makeup, creates a full-bodied character and brings a full life force to the prime minister. The supporting class is excellent including Ben Mendelsohn as a disbelieving King George VI, Stephen Dillane as his cunning rival Viscount Halifax, and Kristin Scott Thomas as his loyal, secondary wife.
*** 1/2 out of ****