Yesterday I went to see Darkest Hour, the new film about Churchill.
It is only playing in one theater, the Malco Ridgeway Cinema Grill. Although we arrived about 15 minutes before the movie time, there was a line. As it turns out, we got the last two tickets to a 12:40 matinee. If you go, order the tickets ahead or get there plenty early.
Darkest Hour centers on the last half of May 1940 when Churchill took over as prime minister from Neville Chamberlain. British forces in France had been corralled in Calais and Dunkirk. Hitler’s takeover of Europe was almost complete.
The film in many ways fails Churchill. It portrays him as determined, but a bit at a loss of what to do. He’s almost addled, something he certainly was not. In reality, he saw the whole debacle coming a decade before and had been preparing for it.
Powerlineblog, which has many Churchill fans, explains: “The film gives us Churchill experiencing a dark night of the soul. He blubbers. He blusters. He shouts. He drinks. He finds resolve in the course of a fictional ride on the underground during which he communes with British commoners. Don’t miss your stop, Sir Winston!”
Yes, that was a ridiculous scene. I don’t think Churchill needed to touch base with the commoners to know what he had to do. The filmmakers undercut their credibility by making this up.
Still, the movie does capture the feeling of the times. The dire situation they were in and the reluctance to go into another war and lose a generation is evident. So is the spirit of the British people that Churchill harnessed to get them through the nightmare.
Steven Hayward at Powerlineblog also wrote this:
When I finally caught up with the movie last week in Los Angeles it took all of my restraint to keep from yelling out at the screen—inaccuracies begin with the very first scene about the May 9 debate in the House of Commons—and I left the theater completely annoyed, requiring a couple of stiff whiskeys to calm down about it. But then a strange thing happened. I started thinking about the movie, breaking down its parts, analyzing the intent and effect of its improvisations and inventions, and after literally tossing and turning in bed all night, by the next morning I had . . . changed my mind.
I now think Darkest Hour is a great movie, and a genuine achievement, particularly for non-specialists. Not perfect, not without grounds for complaint and criticism; there are several elements of the film where I think the sacrifice of accuracy was unnecessary to be supremely dramatic. But the distortions of the truth are not fatal as they are in some other Churchill movies (like last summer’s Churchill, which is an abomination), but in fact are in service of getting some big things right. Churchill experts are likely to be annoyed with many of the liberties the director Joe Wright and screenwriter Anthony McCarten have taken, but I think I get what they were after, and the result is a film that will stand the test of time.
I also think you can’t watch without seeing parallels to Trump. Churchill was from a noble family, but he was still an outsider, especially in this film which shows that neither the Parliament nor the king were pleased with him as prime minister. Churchill was in direct opposition to Neville Chamberlin and held no delusions about Hitler’s strategy. He did not, like Trump, believe in appeasement. The Iran deal Obama cut to appease them is in harmony with the Chamberlin world view.
Like Churchill in this movie, the elites want you to think Trump is not up to the job. Churchill had Gallipolli; Trump had near bankruptcies. Churchill had been in the wilderness outside of politics for years; Trump is new to it. Churchill understood the British people in the same way that Trump understands what it is to be an American.
Had a poll been taken of yesterday’s audience, I would not be surprised if 75% of them were Trump voters. We connect with the idea of preserving our nation and the worth of freedom.
This is not a perfect film, but it deserves our support. It’s worth seeing and maybe filmmakers will start producing films that aren’t all cartoons, super heroes and space creatures. Maybe. It wasn’t their finest hour, but it was a good one.