Dunkirk vs. Darkest Hour

It’s one of those strange coincidences that occurs every few years: two different films cover the same subject matter and happen to be released in close proximity. Typically, it happens in big-budget situations – audiences were able to see two different movies about asteroids headed for Earth (Armageddon and Deep Impact) as well as two different movies about anthropomorphized ants (Antz and A Bug’s Life) in 1998. This year, something similar is happening and even more remarkably so. Two very different, very British films cover a specific period in World War II: the evacuation of British soldiers from the beaches of Dunkirk, France.

This summer, Christopher Nolan delivered his latest big-budget affair, the relentlessly intense, excellent Dunkirk; Joe Wright’s Darkest Hour, currently in limited release, follows Winston Churchill as he makes the decisions that would kickstart the Dunkirk evacuation. The difference between the two films is stark.

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darkest hour trailer

Dunkirk will soon be back on the big screen, but not as Christopher Nolan’s expansive battle movie. This time we’ll be seeing it on the other side of the English Channel in Darkest Hour, the tense Winston Churchill biopic starring an unrecognizable Gary Oldman.

The newest Darkest Hour trailer has Churchill beaten back by detractors and critics who don’t think he’s right for the job of prime minister as an onslaught of German troops beat back weary British soldiers in World War II. And soon after his appointment, Churchill is faced with his most daunting hurdle yet: the Dunkirk evacuation.

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darkest hour review

It’s been a surprisingly big year for Dunkirk. Earlier this year, Lone Scherfig’s Their Finest and Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk both told stories about the evacuation of British troops from the beach at Dunkirk during World War II. Now Joe Wright, who also chronicled the events of Dunkirk in Atonement, tells yet another version of this story with Darkest Hour.

Darkest Hour is the behind-the-scenes look at not so much the evacuation itself, but the events leading up the evacuation. The film’s main focus is British Prime Minister Winston Churchill. Like Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln, Darkest Hour isn’t so much a biopic of a famous politician but rather a week-in-the-life type tale. As the film opens, parliament has lost faith in Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain (Ronald Pickup) for underestimating the nazi threat.

Chamberlain is forced to resign, and the only man the parties seem to be willing to back is Churchill. But while he may have party support, Churchill will soon find his new position is even more challenging than he could’ve imagined.

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the darkest hour

Gary Oldman has never been the kind of actor to go hunting for an Oscar, but Darkest Hour feels like the kind of movie that could thrust the always-brilliant actor into the awards spotlight in a big way. Vanishing under a pile of prosthetics to play Winston Churchill, the Prime Minister of Great Britain who led his nation into and through World War II, Oldman seems to be attempting a role unlike anything he has tried before.

We get our first taste of his performance in the first Darkest Hour trailer, which has just arrived.

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gary oldman winston churchill

My second favorite thing about Gary Oldman is that he’s not picky, which means we’re always getting a new Gary Oldman performance on a fairly regular basis. He’ll play heroes and villains, spies and politicians, wizards and comic book characters. He’s fought hyper-intelligent apes, the Joker, and an on-the-spectrum hitman played by Jean Reno. He’s done it all. My favorite thing about Gary Oldman is that he’s done all of this without ever phoning in a performance, offering the same kind of gravitas to B-movie  junk food like Criminal and thoughtful thrillers like Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (which earned him his sole Oscar nomination). He’s even good in that RoboCop remake. The RoboCop remake!

Now, Gary Oldman is playing Winston Churchill and our first look at him in-character is remarkable.

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Joe Wright Darkest Hour

Joe Wright is coming off an enormous misfire. The filmmaker behind Atonement and Hanna took a huge swing with Pan, his biggest project to date, and it may have lost Warner Bros. around $150 million. Thankfully, the financial failure of Pan doesn’t seem to be slowing down the talented filmmaker. He recently directed a new episode of Black Mirror, and now his Winston Churchill project, Darkest Hour, has been picked up by Focus Features for a 2017 release.

Below, learn more about the Winston Churchill film.

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