I always stay to watch the credits at the end of a film, even with the cinema staff sweeping around me. The credits at the end of ‘Darkest Hour’ list 93-year-old historian John Lukacs, and I found myself wondering just how he feels about this movie. He was the author of the absolutely brilliant Five Days in London: May 1940, which tells in almost hour-by-hour detail the decisions faced by the British government as France and Belgium fell to the Nazis. I think he would have fully supported the film’s emphasis on Churchill’s personality and the uncertainty that surrounded the decision to stand up to Hitler, I wonder how he felt about some of the scenes in the movie.
I’ve often quoted the adage that I gleaned from somewhere when watching a film ‘based on true events’: think of the most dramatic scene in the movie and that’s the bit that’s made up. It certainly holds true here. About 2/3 of the way through a scene on the Underground made me think “Oh hold on – surely this isn’t true”- and sure enough, it’s not.
It’s a beautifully lit film and Gary Oldman is brilliant – although I think it’s easier to ‘nail’ a well-known, true-life character by impersonation than to build a completely fictional character up from scratch. The music was perhaps a little too obtrusive.
I found myself looking for current-day political statements in the film. I don’t think that it necessarily set out to bring a message, but the funding decisions for films surely look for resonances amongst their audience. So the message here? Perhaps the paucity of modern courage and leadership (although, of course, if the whole thing had gone pear-shaped …..) and a reassuring message that ‘the people know best’. A message for Brexit times, maybe?