DARKEST HOUR movie review, discussion panel, and special exhibit on The Queen Mary

Gary Oldman

This past weekend, I attended a special screening of Darkest Hour, a movie about Winston Churchill’s election to Prime Minister and his decision to take Britain to war. After the screening at the Pacific Design Center, we took a shuttle to The Queen Mary in Long Beach. There, we attended a panel discussion with some of the film’s talent and crew. We also got a sneak preview of the Queen Mary exhibit, Their Finest Hours, and enjoyed a cigar and whiskey reception party on deck.

About Darkest Hour

During the early days of World War II, with the fall of France imminent, Britain faces its darkest hour as the threat of invasion looms.  As the seemingly unstoppable Nazi forces advance, and with the Allied army cornered on the beaches of Dunkirk, the fate of Western Europe hangs on the leadership of the newly-appointed British Prime Minister Winston Churchill (Academy Award nominee Gary Oldman).  While maneuvering his political rivals, he must confront the ultimate choice: negotiate with Hitler and save the British people at a terrible cost or rally the nation and fight on against incredible odds.  Directed by Joe Wright, DARKEST HOUR is the dramatic and inspiring story of four weeks in 1940 during which Churchill’s courage to lead changed the course of world history.

Darkest Hour movie review

I get quite emotional when I watch movies, and Darkest Hour was no exception. First off, I’m glad I watched the entire first season of The Crown this summer, because watching that made me interested in British Politics and world history.

Darkest Hour takes place during World War II, when the Nazis have taken most of France. Winston Churchill, recently appointed as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom despite his lack of popularity, has the weight of the nation on his shoulders. Gary Oldman does an amazing job of portraying Winston Churchill in this cinematically intense movie. His “big” acting style filled the shoes of the larger-than-life Churchill perfectly.

Joe Wright’s interpretation of Darkest Hour writer Anthony McCarten’s script gave it an intense, edge-of-of-your seat thriller-type feel. I enjoyed seeing the contrast of Churchill’s brute personality with the public and the softer side we saw interacting with his wife Clementine (played by Kristen Scott Thomas) and his assistant Ms. Layton (played by Lily James).

Churchill, known for mumbling his steady stream of consciousness, was an excellent orator. Gary Oldman nailed this role, and the editorial cutaways to Churchill’s thought process and speech drafts gave the movie depth and emotion.

Darkest Hour is a must-see, whether you are a history buff or not. It will make you more aware of the world around you, and think about what’s important in life and what you personally stand for. It brought tears to my eyes to see a nation stand up for what they believed in.

Darkest Hour discussion panel

Scott Mantz, Gary Oldman, Ben Mendelsohn and Randolph Churchill – Great Grandson of Winston Churchill

Bruno Delbonnel, Sarah Greenwood, Craig Berkey, Valerio Bonelli, Jacqueline Durran and Katie Spencer

On Saturday, December, 2nd, Gary OldmanBen MendelsohnRandolph Churchill (Winston Churchill’s great grandson), cinematographer Bruno Delbonnel, sound editor Craig Berkey, costume designer Jacqueline Durran, production designer Sarah Greenwood, set decorator Katie Spencer, and editor Valerio Bonelli previewed Their Finest Hours exhibit on The Queen Mary.

Here are a few things I learned during the panel discussion:

  • A big part of Darkest Hour was the lighting. The sunlight and shadows reflected Winston Churchill’s mood and personalities, whether it was his public or private persona.
  • The pace of the movie was like that of The West Wing, where the set was like a maze and the camera moved across the set, from room to room. 
  • Gary Oldman’s prosthetic face and fat suit were constructed in L.A. before moving the process to London
  • The editing for this movie was unconventional, as the editing was paced fast despite the dialogue length
  • Timing was everything in editing
  • Creating the sets was very tricky
  • Gary Oldman had worked with costume designer Jacqueline Durran before
  • Director Joe Wright gave the actors an enormous amount of space and was extremely collaborative
  • Randolph Churchill appreciated how Winston Churchill’s humor was captured in this movie

Their Finest Hours Exhibit on The Queen Mary

The Queen Mary is opening their latest exhibit, Their Finest Hours, on December 7th. The exhibit will showcase several Churchill artifacts and letters along with set pieces from DARKEST HOUR, including the replicas of the War Rooms where Winston Churchill and the Allies plotted Hitler’s defeat. Learn why the Queen Mary was Churchill’s secret weapon and see where history was made.

The Queen Mary Website: www.queenmary.com 

Darkest Hour

DIRECTOR: Joe Wright

WRITTEN BY: Anthony McCarten

STARRING: Gary Oldman, Kristin Scott Thomas, Lily James, Stephen Dillane, Ronald Pickup, and Ben Mendelsohn

RELEASE DATE: November 22 (NY/LA); December 2017 (additional cities)

For more info, please follow the film on social:

Official Site I Facebook I Twitter I Instagram


Disclaimer: I attended this special event as a member of the media. Photos provided by Focus Features except when indicated. No monetary compensation was exchanged for this post. All opinions are my own.