A few words about…™Darkest Hour — in Blu-ray

Universal's Blu-ray, presumably based upon the 2k data files is perfect in every regard, as it should be. 4 Stars

Although historically, not totally factual, I cannot imagine even the most ardent history buffs not taking a liking to Joe Wright’s take on the early days of Sir Winston Churchill’s role as British Prime Minister during the early days of WWII.

Gary Oldman’s performance is mesmerizing, and the film, as a whole, is a superior entertainment.

Universal’s Blu-ray, presumably based upon the 2k data files is perfect in every regard, as it should be.

Dolby Atmos rounds out the presentation nicely.

One of the finest films of 2017.

For those who may not have read his tomes on the Second World War, Sir Winston’s works are highly suggested.

Up-rezzed, in projection to 4k, imagery holds up nicely. No reason for a 4k disc, as even in an uprez, Mr. Oldman’s makeup begins to show its seams in some closeups.

Image – 5

Audio – 5 (Dolby Atmos)

Pass / Fail – Pass

Highly Recommended

RAH

Published by

Robert Harris

editor,member

32 Comments

  1. Not to be grammatically picky, Mr. Harris, but I think you meant to write "I cannot imagine even the most ardent history buffs NOT taking a liking to Joe Wright's take on…Sir Winston Churchill" for the way the opening paragraph reads now is that history buffs will not like the film, and I believe you meant the opposite. As Daffy Duck says in Chuck Jones' AUTUMN FIRE, "Pronoun trouble."

    By the way, John Lithgow was on the Stephen Colbert show a few weeks ago–Mr. Lithgow was nominated for a Golden Globe for playing Winston Churchill in THE CROWN–talking about how Gary Oldman refers to him as "Churchill 54" and himself as "Churchill 41". It all sounds suspiciously like wine vintages.

  2. I thought this film was terrific and deserving of all it’s Oscar nominations and it’s inevitable win for Gary Oldman as Best Actor. A tremendously entertaining film.

    But not surprisingly there are some here who hated the film.

  3. lark144

    Not to be grammatically picky, Mr. Harris, but I think you meant to write "I cannot imagine even the most ardent history buffs NOT taking a liking to Joe Wright's take on…Sir Winston Churchill" for the way the opening paragraph reads now is that history buffs will not like the film, and I believe you meant the opposite. As Daffy Duck says in Chuck Jones' AUTUMN FIRE, "Pronoun trouble."

    By the way, John Lithgow was on the Stephen Colbert show a few weeks ago–Mr. Lithgow was nominated for a Golden Globe for playing Winston Churchill in THE CROWN–talking about how Gary Oldman refers to him as "Churchill 54" and himself as "Churchill 41". It all sounds suspiciously like wine vintages.

    Corrected.

    Thank you.

    Understand that I grew up the grandchild of indigent farmers, spending my days harvesting sugar cane.

    Homeschooled, along with my seven siblings.

    Then I moved, and got a job cleaning cutting rooms, until the war broke out…

  4. I didn’t dislike the movie or Oldman but I didn’t love Oldman’s choice to sound like Droopy Dog. Is the what Churchill sounded like?
    Well I guess that doesn’t matter seems everyone thinks he is going to win.

  5. TonyD

    I didn’t dislike the movie or Oldman but I didn’t love Oldman’s choice to sound like Droopy Dog. Is the what Churchill sounded like?
    Well I guess that doesn’t matter seems everyone thinks he is going to win.

    Pretty much so!

  6. titch

    A double-bill of Darkest Hour with Dunkirk – which should go first?

    Reggie W

    I think I would do Dunkirk then Darkest Hour but that could be flipped and it would still work.

    No, it should clearly be "Darkest Hour" and then "Dunkirk". "DH" ends right about where "Dunkirk" begins – why would you watch "Dunkirk" first?

  7. Colin Jacobson

    No, it should clearly be "Darkest Hour" and then "Dunkirk". "DH" ends right about where "Dunkirk" begins – why would you watch "Dunkirk" first?

    I guess mainly because that was the order I saw them in and I sort of liked the way Dunkirk is a more pure cinematic experience and Darkest Hour is more of a traditional story that features a great part for an actor and centers around him. If it is linear story you want then I agree that makes sense to watch Darkest Hour then Dunkirk but I think I enjoy more watching Dunkirk and then seeing this dramatic telling of what led up to it.

  8. TonyD

    In retrospect maybe Droopy Dog was based on WC

    On the Stephen Colbert show, John Lithgow (who played Winston Churchill in THE CROWN) said that Churchill had the strangest, most eccentric manner of speaking English that he had ever heard, which was completely atypical for a "British accent". Then he began speaking like Churchill, and it sounded like Droopy Dog with a sore throat trying to imitate a frog.

  9. Just saw this film in the theater last week. Been trying to see it since it was released in limited engagement form back in November. The wait was so worth it. Absolutely loved it. As others have said, this makes a great companion piece to Dunkirk.

  10. lark144

    Not to be grammatically picky, Mr. Harris, but I think you meant to write "I cannot imagine even the most ardent history buffs NOT taking a liking to Joe Wright's take on…Sir Winston Churchill" for the way the opening paragraph reads now is that history buffs will not like the film, and I believe you meant the opposite. As Daffy Duck says in Chuck Jones' AUTUMN FIRE, "Pronoun trouble."

    By the way, John Lithgow was on the Stephen Colbert show a few weeks ago–Mr. Lithgow was nominated for a Golden Globe for playing Winston Churchill in THE CROWN–talking about how Gary Oldman refers to him as "Churchill 54" and himself as "Churchill 41". It all sounds suspiciously like wine vintages.

    Robert Harris

    Corrected.

    Thank you.

    Understand that I grew up the grandchild of indigent farmers, spending my days harvesting sugar cane.

    Homeschooled, along with my seven siblings.

    Then I moved, and got a job cleaning cutting rooms, until the war broke out…

    Personally, pronoun trouble is something up with which I will not put either!!!!!

  11. bujaki

    Watch the mediocre film first (Darkest Hour); then the masterpiece (Dunkirk). It's like a choice between masturbation or making love with your significant other.

    As I have been awaiting the BD release of Darkest Hour before watching Dunkirk for the very reason to watch the one before the other, I now fear I will have to sit through this double feature with a rather uneasy mental image.

    :rolling-smiley:

  12. JoeDoakes

    Personally, pronoun trouble is something up with which I will not put either!!!!!

    Magnificent! Almost as though the whole exchange was carefully choreographed for your Churchill preposition punchline. Hat doffed.

  13. I finally saw 'Darkest Hour' yesterday. Excellent film and Oldman absolutely deserves the Best Actor Oscar.

    I've read (elsewhere) that some folks were bored by it. Those types of comments are probably what slowed me enthusiasm for seeing the film (which explains why it took me so long to see it). Now that I've seen it, I can only wonder if those other folks actually went to the same film. Perhaps they saw 'The Tree of Life' instead and in their deep-sleep stupor thought they'd seen 'Darkest Hour'?

    Mark

  14. I must jump in whilst preparing my own review of Darkest Hour (and I highly recommend Joe Wright's usual excellent commentary) to note that Mr. Harris left out a crucial part of his early backstory with the sugar cane. You see, he not only harvested the sugar cane but realized that there was an interesting post-field product that could be cultivated from the cane, particularly when fermented and distilled a few times. I'm honestly surprised that nobody has caught the stunning resemblance of Mr. Harris to Cap'n Morgan before now…

  15. Kevin EK

    I must jump in whilst preparing my own review of Darkest Hour (and I highly recommend Joe Wright's usual excellent commentary) to note that Mr. Harris left out a crucial part of his early backstory with the sugar cane. You see, he not only harvested the sugar cane but realized that there was an interesting post-field product that could be cultivated from the cane, particularly when fermented and distilled a few times. I'm honestly surprised that nobody has caught the stunning resemblance of Mr. Harris to Cap'n Morgan before now…

    Separated at birth … 😉
    [​IMG]

  16. Kevin EK

    I must jump in whilst preparing my own review of Darkest Hour (and I highly recommend Joe Wright's usual excellent commentary) to note that Mr. Harris left out a crucial part of his early backstory with the sugar cane. You see, he not only harvested the sugar cane but realized that there was an interesting post-field product that could be cultivated from the cane, particularly when fermented and distilled a few times. I'm honestly surprised that nobody has caught the stunning resemblance of Mr. Harris to Cap'n Morgan before now…

    It all came out in DNA testing. Spend quite a bit of time in the cane fields as a youth. Loved the legends surrounding Rose Hall.

  17. Quite a bit of 'argy-bargy' going on in these comments. There is an old Yank saying, "different strokes for different folkes." I love both "Dunkirk" [aside from Zimmer's rank score] and "Darkest Hour". And, yes, Oldman will win the Oscar® he richly deserves.

  18. bujaki

    Watch the mediocre film first (Darkest Hour); then the masterpiece (Dunkirk). It's like a choice between masturbation or making love with your significant other.

    Ouch! I wouldn't quite come up with that analogy. But, then, at my age I'd most likely end up with Coronary Trombosis in either event.

  19. I got the Blu-Ray of this from the Redbox today and just finished watching it a little while ago. I really, really enjoyed it. Casting is top notch from top to bottom.

    I've watched a lot of docudramas on Churchill, my favorite still being The Gathering Storm with Albert Finney as Churchill, which started a few years into his "wilderness years" and went right through to Britain's declaration of war against of Germany and Churchill's appointment as First Lord of the Admiralty.

    This movie picks up eight months later, with Chamberlain's resignation, and covers the first month of Churchill's first tenure as Prime MInister. I found the HBO-BBC sequel to The Gathering Storm (Into the Storm, with Brendan Gleeson as Churchill) frustrating and underwhelming — especially the decision to set it after the war with flashbacks, rather than continuing chronologically. So this feels closer to the follow-up I'd hoped for then.

    Three of the most famous speeches in the English language were delivered by Churchill in this period: his first speech as Prime Minister in which he declared that "I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat"; his rallying cry to a nation on the brink of potentially disastrous defeat ("We shall fight on the beaches"); and his speech to the House of Commons in response to the fall of France ("This was their finest hour"). This film uses the first two as sort of bookends, with the first coming fairly early on in the movie, and the second as a resounding end note.

    It gets a lot of the small details right, like Churchill's insistence on things being typed double-spaced. And even the things that aren't factually correct, like Churchill's ride on the Underground, speak to some larger truth about the man. You think of the Battle of Britain, when Churchill would visit the bombed out neighborhoods and speak with the dispossessed commoners grappling with the aftermath, and the feelings and interpersonal dynamics translate.

    Chamberlain and Halifax are well-acted and well-written here. They were on the wrong side of history, with the consequence that they're often minimized or characterized. But they were brilliant politicians who cared deeply about their country. By the time they realized that their strategy of appeasement had failed, they genuinely thought that military defeat was inevitable and that a negotiated peace — however poor the terms and however dubious the good faith of the Nazi party — was Britain's best remaining option. They represented a genuine threat to Churchill's leadership, and had to be maneuvered around skillfully. This movie does a good job of capturing all of that.

    I never would have thought of Ben Mendolsohn, an often scruffy Australian, for King George VI. But he's brilliant in the role, and the physical resemblance to the real man is striking — far closer than Colin Firth in The King's Speech. The evolving dynamic between Churchill and His Majesty is one of the highlights of this film.

    Elizabeth Layton was a real person, though she did not lose a brother in the retreat to Dunkirk. Her rough initial introduction to Churchill really happened, but not until a year after the events covered by this movie, when he was already Prime Minister. The historical revisionism is again well justified by the dramatic demands of the film; in real life, Layton was often the only woman present at key moments in history. That being the case, she makes for an ideal window through which the audience can experience this story. She is device to allow Churchill to externalize his thoughts. Lily James is very good without ever stealing attention away from the movie's star attraction.

    Kristin Scott Thomas brings a wonderful sharpness to Clementine Churchill. She in real life was right around the age that "Clemmie" was during the period covered by this movie, but 1940 was before the era of modern anti-aging treatments so a wig and makeup are used to make her look like the 1940s version of mid-fifties.

    I only really have two complaints about the movie:

    1. The minimization of Clement Attlee. As Deputy Prime Minister, his support of Churchill was essential to frustrating the diplomatic approach favored by Chamberlain and Halifax. The support for keeping up the fight among his Labour party was also crucial. The movie doesn't capture that dynamic at all, except for the fact that the Labour backbenchers show express their approval of Churchill's speech well before the Conservative backbenchers (who are waiting for the signal from Chamberlain) do.
    2. The lack of payoff for the evacuation at Dunkirk. The movie devotes quite a bit of time to the preparation for it, and we see the civilian boats setting off for it. But because the movie skips right to the peroration of the "We shall fight on the beaches" speech, we never actually find out what happened. This could have been rectified by also including this relevant passage from the speech:
    "…The Royal Navy, with the willing help of countless merchant seamen, strained every nerve to embark the British and Allied troops. Two hundred and twenty light warships and 650 other vessels were engaged. They had to operate upon the difficult coast, often in adverse weather, under an almost ceaseless hail of bombs and an increasing concentration of artillery fire. Nor were the seas, as I have said, themselves free from mines and torpedoes. It was in conditions such as these that our men carried on, with little or no rest, for days and nights on end, making trip after trip across the dangerous waters, bringing with them always men whom they had rescued. The numbers they have brought back are the measure of their devotion and their courage. The hospital ships, which brought off many thousands of British and French wounded, being so plainly marked were a special target for Nazi bombs; but the men and women on board them never faltered in their duty.

    "Meanwhile, the Royal Air Force, which had already been intervening in the battle, so far as its range would allow, from home bases, now used part of its main metropolitan fighter strength, and struck at the German bombers, and at the fighters which in large numbers protected them. This struggle was protracted and fierce. Suddenly the scene has cleared, the crash and thunder has for the moment—but only for the moment—died away. A miracle of deliverance, achieved by valour, by perseverance, by perfect discipline, by faultless service, by re- source, by skill, by unconquerable fidelity, is manifest to us all. The enemy was hurled back by the retreating British and French troops. He was so roughly handled that he did not harry their departure seriously. The Royal Air Force engaged the main strength of the German Air Force, and inflicted upon them losses of at least four to one; and the Navy, using nearly 1,000 ships of all kinds, carried over 335,000 men, French and British, out of the jaws of death and shame, to their native land and to the tasks which lie immediately ahead. We must be very careful not to assign to this deliverance the attributes of a victory. Wars are not won by evacuations. But there was a victory inside this deliverance, which should be noted. It was gained by the Air Force. Many of our soldiers coming back have not seen the Air Force at work; they saw only the bombers which escaped its protective attack. They underrate its achievements. I have heard much talk of this; that is why I go out of my way to say this. I will tell you about it."

    bujaki

    Watch the mediocre film first (Darkest Hour); then the masterpiece (Dunkirk). It's like a choice between masturbation or making love with your significant other.

    I don't agree with the assessment of the relative quality of the two movies, but I do agree with the order. They complement each other well. Darkest Hour spends a lot of time setting up the evacuation, and Dunkirk pays it off.

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