Oldman's bright hour. Review of ”Dark Times” (Topic)

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Oldman's bright hour. Review of ”Dark Times”

Image Joe Wright is an ambitious filmmaker who is passionate about taking on sacred cows, gnawing a classic story to the bone, and offering the original version. It turns out he has it in different ways. Sometimes it is quite passable, as in the film adaptation of Jane Austen's novel Pride and Prejudice, and sometimes doubtful - an example of this is Leo Tolstoy's farcical adaptation of Anna Karenina. The director's latest work, "Peng: A Journey to Neverland," failed to raise the box office, and the film "Dark Hours" is a kind of Wright's attempt to rehabilitate himself. Remind viewers and producers that he is the author of the promising Atonement so that they don't write it off and continue to support expensive, sweeping projects.

This time he decided to tackle not the legendary history, but the legendary personality - the British Prime Minister during the Second World War and simply the smartest man of his era, Winston Churchill. And here the main thing was to find a suitable actor for this role. Wright's choice surprised: the image of the English Bulldog (as the British themselves called the prime minister) was embodied by the thin and sharp Gary Oldman. The only thing that in fact unites the actor and the legendary premiere is that both are not fools to drink. But this is hardly a guarantee of a successful game, and the actor has been in the tie in recent years. So moviegoers froze in anticipation of the upcoming reincarnation. And, as it turned out, not in vain. Oldman played brilliantly, it is already a fact. For this role, he was awarded the Golden Globe, and the actor's Oscar, they say, is already in his pocket.

Wright is the master of the first shot. With the help of it, he sets the tone for his paintings. In Anna Karenina, this unshaven face of Sveta, peeking out from behind a curtain of red velvet, by which the viewer understands that a spectacle awaits him, to put it mildly, experimental. And USA galloped - Dymkovo, dramatic, colorful-shawl ... He uses the same move in "Dark Times". The first shot is a leap over the heads of the spit and poisonous parliamentarians, promising us that in the next two hours we will comprehend all the subtleties of British politics. And so it goes. Backstage intrigues, lobbies, debates - all this is in abundance in the film. However, Wright is in no hurry to show Churchill. He hides it behind the backs and voices of other characters, since he understands that this is his trump card, and therefore brings him out later, lovingly, as if lifting the bride's veil. It’s hard to see how good it turned out.
ImageWright is clearly an esthete: according to Churchill's breakfast in bed, according to the politician's elegantly folded bohemian wife, the setting in which he places his heroes, and most importantly - according to pre-war London, which he collects from archival photographs, newsreels and memoirs. Wright was already working in this time filming Atonement, and found himself in well-trodden territory. It was not difficult for him artistically and at the same time to reliably show the capital of the British Empire before the fall of the bombs. He also thought over the ponderous color scheme of the film, which once again reminds that times are dark now. Somewhat straightforward, but mesmerizing. And if Wright is united with the picture, then difficulties arise with the plot.

He is predictable. And it's not just that we all know how it ended. The characters themselves act mechanically, like puppets in the hands of a puppeteer. The real hole in the script looks like a scene in the subway, where an anxious prime minister descends to find out the aspirations of his people. At some point, it seems that the actors will jump up from their seats and sing in the best traditions of British musicals, and Churchill will answer them with the same coin and, akimbo, give a hopak or that it is customary to dance in Britain on especially solemn occasions. As if this is not a film about an outstanding Briton, not a world before the war, but a production of a hastily put together a traveling theater. At the same time, the actors, like valiant soldiers to the Generalissimo, try to help their director and draw out raw scenes.


Ben Mendelssohn, who played King George VI, who, as we all remember from The King's Speech, deserves special praise, suffered from stuttering. It's hard to imagine how scary it is to take on a role that one of the most cherished British actors in Hollywood, Colin Firth, has already embodied before you, and even received the main film award for her. But Mendelssohn was not afraid and created a completely different, no less interesting king. The scenes where Oldman and Mendelssohn interact are some of the most successful in the film. They are made not only with taste, as Wright tries in every possible way, but also with meaning, and, even more valuable, with humor. Recently, directors who aim at serious cinema have unjustifiably neglected humor. And this is what makes Dark Times stand out.

ImageGary Oldman is an undoubted success. Even behind the ugly false cheeks, which do not so much help as hinder, inhibiting his facial expressions, the actor managed to create a full-blooded hero, and his work, of course, is impressive. But the catch is that Churchill himself is not impressive. Perhaps the British are interested in looking at their political hero without pants, literally and figuratively, at how the heavyweight politician cries, empathizes, and suffers in making decisions. But the viewer, not versed in his biography and remembering only a photograph from the Yalta conference, where Churchill smokes an invariable cigar in the company of Stalin and Roosevelt, will not receive a historical hero, but rather Wright's point of view on a historical hero.

On the screen there is a weak, sluggish old man, it is not clear for what reason he was nominated for prime minister. No one knows why the king himself is so afraid of him. Even his speeches in front of opponents are faded. Not guessed in the screen Winston is an erudite, strategist, sharp-tongued Nobel laureate in literature. Meanwhile, the speeches of the British prime minister are as iconic as the many times quoted “I have a dream” delivered by Martin Luther King from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. How Wright devalued what is happening in schools on both sides of the Atlantic today is a mystery. Apparently, he was too carried away by the pursuit of the beauty of the frame.

Evaluating films is always difficult. Any new one was created in the context of those already published, and therefore the flaws are immediately visible, and, one way or another, the thoughts that they did not put the squeeze, did not finish thinking, or missed, scratch the mind. Nevertheless, with all its obvious drawbacks, the film "Dark Hours" came out as a strong average. As reviewers like to say in this case, cinema is not for everybody. And these lovers seem to be enough. These are fans of Oldman, connoisseurs of biographical films, and admirers of the pre-war era, slowly sailing past the windows of Winston Churchill's car.


By the way, our distributors replayed the title of the film. In the original it sounds like "The Darkest Hour" and gives a kind of hint, because the darkest hour happens before dawn. True, behind the dawn there are still millions of deaths and many months that have developed into the bloody six years. But the very birth of hope and the refusal of slavish service to the Nazi regime is already a starting point until victory.

The Topic of Article: Oldman's bright hour. Review of ”Dark Times”.
Author: Jake Pinkman