A Light on Winston Churchill in Film, "Darkest Hour"

22 December, 2017

Darkest Hour is a new historical drama from filmmaker Joe Wright. The movie shows how Winston Churchill urged the British people to fight against Nazi Germany during World War II. Although the movie is based on facts, it seems more like a political action film.

"The Germans have encircled sixty British and French divisions. We are looking at the collapse of Western Europe in the next few days."

In the spring of 1940, the West was losing the war against Nazi Germany. The Nazis had invaded Belgium and France. Britain was on the edge of surrender. As the British forces were trapped in the French coastal town of Dunkirk, the British Parliament removed Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain from office. Chamberlain had been seeking a political agreement with Hitler to avoid fighting.

The lawmakers replaced him with Winston Churchill, who supported war against the Nazis.

Ben Mendelsohn plays George VI.

"Why have I been forced to send for Churchill? His record is a catastrophe."

Churchill's unpredictable and explosive personality did not win him many friends. The king himself did not support Churchill at first.

"Your majesty.

It is my duty to invite you to take up the position of prime minister of this United Kingdom."

The film uncovers Churchill's qualities as a fierce leader, who battled his fears and led Britain to victory against the Nazis.

Kristin Scott Thomas plays Churchill's wife, Clementine. Gary Oldman is Churchill.

"You have the full weight of the world on your shoulders."
"Are you not afraid?"
"Most terribly."

The film's director, Joe Wright, says Churchill's humanity appealed to him.

"It was the element of doubt. The idea that his doubt was a key element to the attainment of wisdom."

Gary Oldman says he was not immediately sure he should accept the part of Churchill. For one thing, the former leader was physically very different from the actor.

"I studied the footage and what started to emerge was this rather vital, cherubic, cheeky man who was just dynamic and full of life, charismatic, and funny."

One powerful politician urges Churchill to negotiate peace, arguing that Britain is facing defeat on land, destruction of its army and invasion.

"And before our forces are wiped out completely, now is the time to negotiate."

Oldman, as Churchill, answers.

"When will the lesson be learned? When will the lesson be learned? You cannot reason with a tiger when your head is in its mouth!"

Darkest Hour has received generally good reviews. But, almost all critics have highly praised Gary Oldman as Churchill. They have called the actor's performance tremendous, fascinating and phenomenal.

"We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender!"

Most say Oldman will win the 2018 best actor Oscar for the work.

I‘m ­­­Caty Weaver.

Penelope Poulou reported this story for VOA News. Caty Weaver adapted it for Learning English. Mario Ritter was the editor.


Words in This Story

catastrophe –n. a disaster

doubt –n. the state of not believing whether something is true or not true

attainment –n. the state of having reached a high level

wisdom –n. having the knowledge to make good decisions

vital –adj. filled with life

cherubic –adj. like a cherub, a young, round-faced angel

cheeky –adj. showing a lack of respect in a playful way

charismatic –adj. having a forceful personality and qualities of leadership

reviews –n. opinion writing about artistic performances and events such as movies, plays, etc.

tremendous –adj. very good, great

fascinating –adj. very interesting

phenomenal –adj. unusual, great