Thursday, January 4, 2018

Darkest Hour

Normally one issues a spoiler alert when narrating a twist in the plot of a movie or play. But Darkest Hour is history and everyone knows that Churchill’s (and England’s) “darkest hour” would be followed by Dunkirk, another movie that doesn’t require any warnings. One theme however does emerge from both and that’s the notion that the forces of good will ultimately prevail. Of course, that’s something also found in the Star Wars sagas.  While it’s an idea that receives anonymous validation at the box office, it's a concept that also produces disclaimers. Darkest Hour ends, for example, with a series of historical notes, one of which was that Churchill was voted out of office five years later, before the Japanese had even surrendered. If you remember  General Charles de Gaulle, a hero of the French resistance, ended up being anathema to the students who took to the barricades in '68 (along with other French icons like Andre Malraux who were also villified). The interesting thing about Darkest Hour is that it’s a movie about a historical low point. Of course it augurs the turnaround of England’s fortunes, but still portrays the British Empire in a vulnerable position and doesn’t always show it or Churchill (Gary Oldman) in a positive light. In the key scene when the King George VI (Ben Mendelsohn) arrives, Churchill looks like a beaten man, an old drunk, who's used up his bag of tricks and whose down on his luck. There’s a heroic reversal, but off screen the story’s not over yet. The moral high ground turns out to be a fragile position to maintain when the paradigm shifts and a new world order rears its head.

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