Who knows why, but there have been at least three films in recent months focusing on the Dunkirk evacuation: Lone Scherfig’s Their Finest, Christopher Nolan’s magisterial Dunkirk. and now Joe Wright’s Darkest Hour. Unsurprisingly in view of this, we have also seen a lot of Winston Churchill on our screens. It is a role that attracts formidable acting talents. Wright’s film juggles the personal and the political with some skill. His Churchill is concerned to fight to the end, with his eye on victory rather than peace, and this might be said of his dealings with colleagues as well as with the enemy.
Darkest Hour is necessarily talky. This is not essentially an action piece, or at least not the kind of action which might have been suggested by the opening black-and-white images of military men and ammunition. Much of the film’s drama is in the talk, which will inevitably makes its way via ‘toil, tears and sweat’ to the ultimate ‘We shall fight them on the beaches’ and so on, until ‘We shall never surrender’. But it works more subtly than this might suggest. Much of the talk is about matters that require argument: for example, the deposing of Neville Chamberlain following his misplaced appeasement venture and bringing Churchill on in the wake of this; or dealing with the idea of Italian mediation between Britain and Germany; or in the actuality of preparing for the Dunkirk rescue operation and how the situation in France has determined this.