Last night was the UK premiere of the gripping new historical drama from Atonement director Joe Wright. Darkest Hour is an intense, beautifully shot film that relives the history-making first days of Winston Churchill’s term as prime minister at the dawn of the Second World War. In contrast to the recent Dunkirk, or perhaps in complement to, Wright’s reenactment of the period takes place predominantly in the interiors of the houses of parliament, around the table with the government’s war cabinet and tailing Churchill in his eccentric cigar puffing, dressing gown-clad moments of crisis.
But despite being a far remove from the plight of soldiers and warfare, Wright’s exacting execution of his vision – each moment forms a perfectly lit photograph – and a phenomenal performance from its lead cast, particularly the already-Golden-Globe-nominated Gary Oldman, ensure tension and anticipation are held on a knife-edge throughout. Facilitated by some impressive prosthetics, Oldman fully inhabits the role of Churchill and breathes life into the well-known speeches as well as the spaces in between our historical knowledge of the great leader. Kristin Scott Thomas exquisitely reveals the woman behind the great leader in playing his wife Clementine and Lily James captures the unusual yet affectionate relationship he shared with his personal secretary Elizabeth Layton. Ben Mendelsohn is also fantastic as King George VI. All round, it’s a fresh and enthralling interpretation of a period of history that has seen countless films devoted to it and appears feel ever more timely in its central themes of leadership and the unrelenting defeat of fascism.
We had the honour of speaking with the director and cast as they arrived in a chilly Leicester Square for the premiere at the Odeon cinema.
Oldman spoke about his experience of playing the historical figure and what he learnt from the process.
Director Joe Wright explained why he wanted to make the film and how he went about choosing his perfect Churchill.
Lily James shared her reflections on the great leader and working alongside Gary Oldman as Churchill’s personal secretary Elizabeth Layton.
Kristin Scott Thomas also spoke of her experience playing Churchill’s partner Clementine.
Samuel West who plays Sir Anthony Eden revealed it to be the role of a lifetime and explained what he thinks it has to say to a contemporary audience.
By Sarah Bradbury. First published on The Upcoming on 12th December 2017.
Darkest Hour will be in UK cinemas from 12th January 2018.
You can watch the trailer for Darkest Hour here: