Rave reviews for Gary Oldman's Churchill in The Darkest Hour arrive with Oscar talk

Ben Arnold
UK Movies Writer

The first still of Gary Oldman, weighed down with prosthetics as wartime Prime Minister Winston Churchill, got people talking when it was unveiled last year.

And by the sound of some early reviews, his performance is a cracker, leading some to make the obvious connection to a certain annual awards giving event in the movie calendar.

Joe Wright’s ‘The Darkest Hour’ had its premiere at the Telluride Film Festival last weekend, detailing Britain’s struggle in the early part of World War II, when possible invasion loomed as the Nazis cornered the Allied armies at Dunkirk.

Churchill was faced with either negotiating with Hitler, or rallying the army and the British public behind him.

The movie finds Oldman as Churchill, alongside Ben Mendelsohn as King George VI, Kristin Scott Thomas as Churchill’s wife Clementine, Stephen Dillane as Lord Halifax and Ronald Pickup as Neville Chamberlain, stepping in for John Hurt who died just prior to the movie’s production.

Some of the early reviews are already in, and they’re pretty celebratory, singling out a bravura performance from Oldman.

The Playlist writes: “Few would argue that Gary Oldman isn’t one of the finest actors of his generation, but this is a tour de force portrayal that will define his body of work for decades to come.”

(Credit: Focus Features)

Peter Debruge in Variety writes: “Set during the crucial first days of Winston Churchill’s term as prime minster, this talky, yet stunningly cinematic history lesson balances the great orator’s public triumphs with more vulnerable private moments of self-doubt, elevating the inner workings of British government into a compelling piece of populist entertainment.

“The… performance is unlike anything Oldman has previously delivered, in part because this time, the character is one we presume to know so well from archival footage, photographs and radio recordings. And yet, the master actor rejects mere mimicry, constructing from the ground up a full-bodied and impressively nuanced version of the historical figure.”

As for the talk of statuettes, The Hollywood Reporter‘s awards season expert Scott Feinberg writes: “Oldman still is Oscar-less – he’s been nominated just once, for 2011’s ‘Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy’ – but he could finally take home a statuette this season; for now, he’s the man to beat in the best actor race.”

There’s no UK reviews released as yet, but it looks like Oldman could be one-to-watch when the Best Actor category gets announced on January 23, 2018.

The movie has no confirmed UK release date as yet.

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