Review / ‘Darkest Hour’ (PG) *** and a half

THIS is strong stuff alleviated by glimpses of a marriage founded on deep love that never faltered.

It’s a political thriller telling about the conflict between Winston Churchill and members of his War Cabinet. It begins on the day that Winston tells the King that he has the support of both sides of Parliament to hold the office of Prime Minister. From there it accompanies Winston right up to his memorable address telling Parliament and the British people that “we shall never surrender”. That moment stymied Viscount Halifax’s pleading that Britain negotiate terms with Hitler.

Anthony McCarten’s screenplay has a rich lode of information from which to draw. When he takes director Joe Wright out of Westminster and into places such as the Churchill bedroom, it deals effectively with what may or may not be conjecture.

Much has been said of Gary Oldman’s portrayal of Winston. And most of it is valid. He’s already won a Golden Globe and several lesser awards and been nominated for a BAFTA and several lesser awards. And the Oscars loom ere long.

The supporting cast is a treasury of British actors. And one Australian one. Ben Mendelsohn looks and speaks satisfactorily like George VI. Kristen Scott Thomas looks agreeably like Clementine (Clemmie) Churchill. Lily James plays Winston’s amanuensis Elizabeth Layton. Ronald Pickup plays Neville Chamberlain, Stephen Dillane plays Halifax and Sam West plays Anthony Eden.

So what’s it all about? Within days of becoming Prime Minister, Winston faces a turbulent issue: whether to negotiate a peace treaty with Nazi Germany, or stand firm to fight for British ideals, liberty and freedom. Nazi forces are rolling toward the English Channel. The threat of invasion is imminent, the public is unprepared, the King is sceptical, and his own party is plotting against him. Cometh the day, cometh the man.

At Dendy, Palace Electric, Capitol 6, Hoyts Belconnen, Limelight

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