'Darkest Hour' a Movie Review
I just had to get this in!!!
The famous 'V' for victory done the original way.
Oldman does this in a classic way in the movie, and you know exactly what he's telling the reporter, and it's got nothing to do with victory!!!
The reporter has just asked the prime minister if it's true that the British are in 'full retreat' in France, when Winston whirls around and gives him the two 'fingers'. The press take the photo and the next day it's on the front page of the papers.
Winston arrives at Westminster where his secretary is almost wetting herself laughing at the picture, he asks what's so funny, and she explains the more vulgar meaning of the signal, but in a more 'ladylike' fashion! She uses the phrase "Up your bum!" which Winston finds hilarious!!!
A birthday treat.
This weekend we celebrated a milestone, only a little one, getting a year older, and supposedly a year wiser (my wife and daughter would probably dispute that!) and I got to choose how we celebrated it.
My beloved knew that there was a movie that I was really wanting to see, and even though it was coming to the end of it's run in cinemas, she got us the tickets to go and see one of the best movies that will hit the screens this year, a movie about a real hero of mine, and a man I can relate to in many ways.
The movie had a strange title, but it also got right to the point, "Darkest Hour" cut right to the chase, and right into a period of some of the darkest times in the twentieth century, when it looked seriously like the nations of Western Europe were about to be swallowed up in the evil that was Nazism.
Take a look at the trailer
What's it about?
Okay, now I've told you what the movie is called, what's it really about?
The movie is set at the start of the second world war. A time when no one was prepared for the rising monster that was Adolf Hitler and no one was in a position to oppose Germany, Britain was in total political disarray, Holland had been crushed in a matter of days, The Germans had broken through and were heading for the English Channel, France, battered and bewildered was trying desperately to survive, but had no hope of facing the Nazi war machine, things were looking bleak.
Neville Chamberlain (the British prime minister who actually declared war on Germany) had tried years of negotiating peace at all costs, with the result that just about every armed forces in Europe were ready for the confrontation.
The movie opens with Chamberlain resigning, but he was forced to do so by the opposition Labour party, they had totally lost confidence in his ability to lead, and they lost confidence in any of his 'deputies'
Frantically looking round for anyone who could 'lead' the country they soon realize there's only one man from the conservatives that Labour would even consider, and he's hated by his own party, he's regarded as a 'self seeking cigar smoking drunk' (and that's when they're being kind).
A man whom every decision he'd ever made as a politician had turned to disaster, from the Gallipoli campaign in 1915, to the union strikes in the 1920s, but worst of all, he'd even defected to the 'other side' for ten whole years (He was known for changing parties before he'd change opinions!)
Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill was the son of Lord Randolph Churchill and Lady Jenny Churchill, the daughter of an American industrialist, he was 'half American' and never flinched at playing that card when he needed to. (He was also related to the lady who would later become 'Diana, the Princess of Wales' but that's another story)
The movie isn't so much about Churchill's career, or even about the war years, but about the fact that three of the most famous speeches in history, three of the most influential speeches were given in a short space of just two weeks, the first two weeks he was in office, and they were totally against all the advice Churchill was being given!
What the actor said about the role
What was going on?
To understand the movie, you're really got to know a bit of what was going on at the time. Gary Oldman in the interview here makes a point that Winston had been in Germany in 1932, just before the Nazis came to power, and he saw first hand what they were doing, he saw first hand the way the Nazis were already treating the Jews, and he had a sense of foreboding what was going to happen in Europe
Winston tried to warn Europe what was happening in Germany, he tried to warn the world that Germany was re-arming and getting ready for another war, bigger and much more bloody than the first had ever been, he tried to warn, but no one listened.
But there were others who were also warning the world, including some Germans
- William Stephenson - Wikipedia
Some say that William Stephenson was the inspiration for 'James Bond' He was an 'enterprising' Canadian who gathered intelligence for Churchill
Europe on the brink
Holland had surrendered, Belgium was about to be overrun, France was tottering on the brink of disaster and the British Army had been routed by a better trained and equipped force that had overwhelming numerical superiority in Tanks, planes and even manpower (Germany had about five million men they could call on, Britain had 300,000 in total at that time)
Along with that, Churchill wasn't trusted by his own party, the King didn't like him, and thought he was a 'washed up failure' and there was a strong contingent trying to talk him into making peace with Hitler!
The struggles in the war cabinet were real, there were those who wanted peace at all costs, they were willing to give up part of the British Empire to achieve it, but it wasn't the callous abandoning of the continent, they really believed there was no hope of ever coming back from such a defeat, Hitler had smashed three of the best trained armies on the continent in less than a month!
What's the movie really about?
I could go on and on about the movie, it really was that good, and Gary Oldman certainly deserves an Oscar for the great performance he puts in, but there is a message here, in this movie.
For me, it's about the man, Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill. A man who knew what was right, and what was wrong, and nothing he saw could persuade him any other way.
Churchill was a man, who knew what he stood for, and he never wavered in those beliefs, incidentally he hated communism almost as much, and at the end of the war, he wanted to re-arm the 'de-nazified' Germans and join with them to remove the Soviets next! (Yes he really did have a plan to attack the Soviet Union, it was only stopped because Roosevelt wouldn't agree to it!
Churchill's plan "Operation Unthinkable"
What it's really about
Churchill knew what was right, but he also 'lead from the front' and people respected him for it, he didn't mince words. He was eloquent, but did you know that he struggled with stutter all his life? The greatest orator the English language has ever known actually had s speech impediment that forced him to slow down and work on clearly pronouncing his words.
He also struggled with the 'Black Dog' of depression all his life, then again, standing on your own for what you know is right, especially when the rest of the world won't believe you, or even worse, thinks you're a 'warmonger' can do that to you, but he stood, and we are thankful for it.
How accurate is the movie?
With any movie, artistic licence comes into play, and you wonder how much of it the director might have used, there's no doubt that they used some in the movie, but they stayed true to the man himself.
There's one scene, just when Churchill is having real doubts about carrying on the war, and seriously considering whether Britain should sue for peace, as far as we know he never once contemplated it, but in the movie the King has come to support him and tells him to 'find what the people think' so Winston goes missing on the way to Westminster and ends up 'on the tube' (as the London underground is lovingly called by Londoners) where he gets the feel of the people, and it's "Never surrender"
The scene probably didn't happen, but he was well known that at the height of the Blitz and the Battle of Britain Churchill would walk the streets after every raid talking with the people, and listening to them!
Another story I love about him was that just after America entered the war Churchill visited the USA and was on his way home, but the Battleship he was on, would be too slow for him, so he took an unarmed 'mail plane' and at one stage had the US Navy, the Royal Navy, The German Kriegsmarine (German Navy) and Luftwaffe hunting for him (The Germans knew he was out there in the plane!) He was known for taking risks, and as they say in the movie, "He'll have a hundred ideas in a day, one will be good, the rest downright dangerous!"
Churchill's first speech as prime minister
"We shall fight them on the beaches" May 14th 1940
"Their finest hour" June 1940
As we left the movie, I heard my wife, who doesn't normally bother too much with movies about history, ask "What if Winston hadn't stood for what he believed in? What if he'd gone with those who wanted peace? What kind of a world would we live in?"
The world we live in isn't perfect, it's got lots of faults, but because 77 years ago one man stood for what was right, one man listened to his conscience and followed where it led, our world is a much better place than it would have been if he hadn't!
Yes, millions died in that war, but how many would have died under a brutal tyranny? How many would have faced a terror beyond what we can imagine,and with a brutal nation that would have developed the ultimate weapon, the atomic bomb?
The movie was a great movie about an important figure not just in British history, but in the history of the Human race, a lone man who stood for what he believed to be right even when it meant standing alone, and being castigated for it.