Darkest Hour

Darkest Hour

2017, PG-13, 125 min. Directed by Joe Wright. Starring Gary Oldman, Kristin Scott Thomas, Lily James, Ben Mendelsohn, Stephen Dillane, Ronald Pickup, Richard Lumsden, Nicholas Jones.

REVIEWED By Steve Davis, Fri., Dec. 15, 2017

With his jowly countenance and stout physique, British statesman Winston Churchill resembled an English bulldog, a plucky creature who growled words of encouragement during rousing BBC radio broadcasts that inspired a nation to resist the threat of German invasion shortly after the outbreak of World War II. As Britain’s chief of state at a critical juncture in Western history, he rallied a beleaguered commonwealth to never surrender in appeasement to a reviled Adolf Hitler. In the historical drama Darkest Hour, an unrecognizable Gary Oldman slips into Churchill’s sallow skin to replicate this wartime hero during his early tenure as prime minister, down to the chomp of his cigar. It’s an uncanny physical transformation, as if a holograph from 1940 were beamed to the present day to perform the role. Cognizant of this startling effect, the film tantalizingly anticipates Oldman’s initial appearance as members of Parliament debate who should succeed a disgraced Neville Chamberlain, finally revealing the actor’s presence with a struck match lighting a stogie in a darkened bedroom, followed by a raised morning shade illuminating both him and a scotch-and-egg breakfast. It’s a clever introduction to a performance that may be too clever for the movie’s own good.

A nagging question persists throughout Darkest Hour: Is Oldman’s compulsively meticulous turn here anything more than a brilliant impersonation? The answer is yes, but it’s a performance that always stands apart from the rest of the film. Director Wright captures the chaos of a country facing the imminent threat of bloodshed on its home soil (the Blitz was soon to come), and demonstrates a fondness for tracking and aerial shots to depict the Brits’ losing war on the Continent, culminating in the retreat at Dunkirk. But he can’t convincingly realize Anthony McCarten’s screenplay’s ineffectual attempts to humanize the irascible leader through relationships with his supportive wife, Clementine (a sorely underused Scott Thomas, given only a handful of scenes), and the awed typist who records his speeches (James). When the narrative sends Winnie underground to poll the commonfolk on the subway so he might understand firsthand his constituency’s views on war vs. peace, the movie hits the brakes and goes off the rails, screeching. To be fair to Wright: Not even the most gifted of filmmakers could make this completely fabricated scene plausible. It’s as if a third-rate Frank Capra suddenly took over and retitled the movie Mr. Churchill Rides the Tube. Harrumph, indeed.

Showtimes

Wed., Jan. 17

11:35am, 3:00, 6:35, 9:40

Wed., Jan. 17

12:45, 3:50, 7:00, 10:30

Arbor Cinema @ Great Hills

9828 Great Hills Trail, 512/231-9742

Discounts daily before 6pm.

Wed., Jan. 17

CC/DVS 12:45, 4:00, 7:00, 10:00

Thu., Jan. 18

CC/DVS 12:45, 4:00

Barton Creek Square (AMC)

2901 South Capital of Texas Hwy, 512/306-1991, www.amctheatres.com

Matinee discounts available before 4pm daily. Bring Your Baby matinees the first Tuesday of every month.

Wed., Jan. 17

CC/DVS 1:30, 4:30, 7:30
CC/DVS, recliners, reserved seating 1:30, 4:30, 7:30

Thu., Jan. 18

CC/DVS 1:30, 4:30
CC/DVS, recliners, reserved seating 1:30, 4:30

Wed., Jan. 17

luxury lounger 12:45, 4:05, 7:10, 10:20
Luxury Lounger CinéArts 12:45, 4:05, 7:10, 10:20

Cinemark Round Rock

4401 N. I-35, Round Rock, 800/326-3264

Cost for 3-D shows is regular ticket price plus a $3.50 premium. Call theatre for complete March 26-28 showtimes.

Wed., Jan. 17

CinéArts Digital 12:35, 3:50, 6:55, 10:00
digital 12:35, 3:50, 6:55, 10:00

City Lights Theatre

420 Wolf Ranch Parkway, Georgetown, 512/868-9922

Wed., Jan. 17

1:15, 4:20, 7:25, 10:10

Thu., Jan. 18

1:15, 4:20, 7:25, 10:10

EVO Entertainment

3200 Kyle Crossing, Kyle, 512/523-9009, www.evo-entertainment.com

Wed., Jan. 17

12:15, 3:20, 9:45

Metropolitan

901 Little Texas, 512/447-0101

Discounts daily before 6pm. Cost for 3-D shows is regular ticket price plus a $3.50 premium.

Wed., Jan. 17

CC/DVS 12:15, 3:20, 6:15, 9:15

Thu., Jan. 18

CC/DVS 12:15, 3:20, 6:15, 9:15

Moviehouse & Eatery

8300 N. FM 620, Bldg. B, 512/501-3520, www.themoviehouse.com/austin/

Wed., Jan. 17

10:50am, 2:10, 5:15, 8:30

Thu., Jan. 18

10:50am, 2:10, 5:15

Schulman Theatres Lost Pines 8

1600 Chestnut St, Bastrop, 512/321-0123, www.schulmantheatres.com

Wed., Jan. 17

7:20, 10:25

Thu., Jan. 18

7:20, 10:25

ShowBiz Cinemas 8 Marble Falls

2600 Hwy 281 North, Marble Falls

Call theatre for August 22-23 showtimes.

Wed., Jan. 17

1:45, 4:40, 7:35

Thu., Jan. 18

1:45, 4:40, 7:35

Starplex 12 San Marcos

1250 Wonder World Drive, San Marcos, 512/805-8000

Wed., Jan. 17

12:15, 3:20, 6:55, 9:45

Violet Crown Cinema

434 W. Second, 512/495-9600, www.violetcrowncinema.com

Four-hour parking validation in attached garage with ticket purchase. Reserved seating; bar and cafe on-site.

Wed., Jan. 17

11:00am, 1:30, 4:00, 6:30, 9:00

Thu., Jan. 18

11:00am, 1:30, 4:00, 6:30, 9:00

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS FILM

Darkest Hour, Joe Wright, Gary Oldman, Kristin Scott Thomas, Lily James, Ben Mendelsohn, Stephen Dillane, Ronald Pickup, Richard Lumsden, Nicholas Jones

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