At first, it seems difficult to envision any actor in the role of Sir Winston Churchill – let alone Gary Oldman. The former U.K Prime Minister was once bestowed with the nickname ‘The British Bulldog’ and that hardly seems to fit with the presence of the actor who delivered the roles of Commissioner Gordon (The Dark Knight Trilogy), Sirius Black (the Harry Potter franchise), Jean-Baptiste Emanuel Zorg (The Fifth Element), Dracula (Bram Stoker’s Dracula), Lee Harvey Oswald (JFK), and Sid Vicious (Sid And Nancy). But, this collection of performances shows nothing if not an incredibly vast range, and what we have with Winston Churchill in Darkest Hour, is some epic drama and electrifying speeches.
Sir Winston Churchill has been long regarded, and publicly named, as the Greatest Briton of all time – and with good reason. The economic and foreign policies he spearheaded throughout his career were undoubtedly often problematic, but on May 10th, 1940 – when the nation was indeed facing its darkest hour in the midst of war – Winston Churchill stepped up and changed the course of history.
The forces of Nazi Germany were advancing, pressure was mounting for Britain to negotiate with Hitler’s regime, and Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain had lost the confidence of his government and citizenry. Chamberlain tendered his resignation and, along with Foreign Secretary Lord Halifax and Chief Whip David Margesson, recommended to King George VI that Winston Churchill be invited to take the top job.
Churchill was eminently qualified for the position at precisely that time. Already a giant in the political arena, he also had years of active service as an Officer in the British Army to draw upon. In addition, he had served as the President of the Board of Trade, Home Secretary, First Lord of the Admiralty, Minister Of Munitions, Secretary of State For War, Secretary of State for Air, Secretary of State for the Colonies, and Chancellor of the Exchequer. Taking office in May 1940, he faced the daunting task of bolstering the flagging morale of the British public – which he did through spectacular oration. His speeches inspired continued resistance throughout Europe and at home, and the new Prime Minister also worked to build alliances against the Third Reich.
Preparing the population of Britain for what would be perhaps their biggest and most deadly challenge of the 20th century – the Blitz and the Battle Of Britain – Churchill addressed the House Of Commons, and gave one of his many speeches that would rally the nation, and echo through history.
“Hitler knows that he will have to break us in this island or lose the war. If we can stand up to him, all Europe may be free and the life of the world may move forward into broad, sunlit uplands. But if we fail, then the whole world, including the United States, including all that we have known and cared for, will sink into the abyss of a new Dark Age made more sinister, and perhaps more protracted, by the lights of a perverted science. Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves that, if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, ‘This was their finest hour'”
Now, while the actor Gary Oldman may not be the first to spring to mind in terms of the physicality of Sir Winston Churchill, the idea of this formidable Academy Award nominee delivering that speech is an undeniably thrilling prospect. With a script by Anthony McCarten (The Theory Of Everything), and with director Joe Wright (Atonement) set to take the helm, Darkest Hour could well be a hugely successful historical epic – particularly if Gary Oldman takes the lead.