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The Darkest Hour

All The Money In The World

December 28, 2017

The Darkest Hour (** ½) PG-13

The historical drama The Darkest Hour is basically a retelling of events previously depicted in director Christopher Nolan’s smashing success from last summer Dunkirk, and the end result is roughly the same. Which is to say, not entirely successful. Joe Wright (Atonement) directs from a script by Anthony McCarten and this film succeeds where Dunkirk failed (in the fleshing out of characters) and fails where Dunkirk succeeded­—in the cinematic interpretation of the material.

The Darkest Hour contains lots of scenes of talking heads that eventually wear out their welcome as British Prime Minister frets about what to do when the allied forces find themselves stranded on the shores of Dunkirk as they attempt to fend off the onslaught of the Nazi regime. Perhaps if these two scripts had been meshed into one then we might have had a powder keg of a film. As it stands The Darkest Hour is good but not great and succeeds as well as it does mostly as a result of its credible cast and, especially, its standout central performance.

Scott-Thomas & Oldman in ‘Darkest Hour’

Gary Oldman is certainly not the first actor who would come to mind when casting a WWII drama with Winston Churchill at its center. And yet, he delivers the goods. He’s virtually unrecognizable as the British Prime Minister by being encased in what is referred to by some as a fat suit. He’s got the voice and mannerisms down pat as well and it’s amazing to watch him at work much in the same way it was a joy to watch him in years gone by portraying such public figures as Lee Harvey Oswald, Sid Vicious and Beethoven. He’s a great actor to be sure and there’s no arguing that The Darkest Hour rests and falls on his shoulders. He’s the whole show and without him this is the kind of film that wouldn’t even receive a mention come awards time, although Kristen Scott Thomas brings some notable competitive edge in her performance as Churchill’s wife.

Unfortunately, the film’s script never reaches the dizzying heights of Oldman’s performance. It’s interesting, for a while at least, to watch Churchill go back and forth as to whether he should negotiate with Hitler or take another approach to liberating the allied forces stranded on the beach. Unfortunately, there’s only so much drama that the filmmakers can get out of that scenario and the film eventually buckles under the weight of the overall stodgy feel. Oldman’s performance is good but it can never quite mask the fact that The Darkest Hour is a film tailor made to court the Oscar vote as much as anything else.

This movie is playing in Charlotte at press time.

All the Money in the World (***) R

Director Ridley Scott’s second film in the calendar year of 2017­­­—that in itself being quite an accomplishment for a film director who is now in his eighties—was being groomed as an early Oscar contender in early fall. The film is a dramatization of the kidnapping of legendary billionaire J. Paul Getty’s grandson in 1973 and the early praise was being directed at actor Kevin Spacey’s performance in the role of the elder tycoon. Shortly thereafter came the allegations of the actor’s sexual misconduct, which sent things spinning in an entirely new direction for the film’s director. The curiosity swirled as to what would become of the film. Scott hastily recast the role with actor Christopher Plummer in the part and shot all of the scenes in a nine-day marathon session, announcing that the film would still make its release date.

And now the question remains as to what effect Plummer’s participation has had on the film. The short answer is that he’s one of the best things to be found in the film and, had he not won an Oscar just a few years back for his role in the film Beginners, he would most assuredly be a front runner this time around. In fact, he’s so good it leaves one wondering why he wasn’t cast in the role in the first place instead of Spacey. The unrealistic old age makeup applied to Spacey, seen in the early trailers for the film, certainly made me scratch my head in bewilderment. Plummer, in my estimation was certainly the wiser choice.

Christopher Plummer in ‘Money’

Now that I’ve gotten that business out of the way it’s time to move on to the film itself. It works well enough and tells a fairly compelling story as it relates the attempts of the elder Getty’s daughter in law, Gayle’s (Michelle Williams, also turning in some good work) attempts to scrape together the funds to pay off the ransom note. The old man will have none of it, reasoning that if he pays off one kidnapper then more are surely to come out of the woodwork. Instead he opts to let his adviser, Fletcher Chase (Mark Wahlberg, woefully miscast here and one of the film’s weak links) play the role of negotiator and do the dirty work before time runs out. Of course, it’s a foregone conclusion that Gayle and Fletcher will eventually join forces and come up with a plan to rescue Gayle’s son.

The biggest quibble to be found with the film is in its playing loose with the facts. There are multiple scenes that, when readily researched, appear to be nothing more than the concoction of the screenwriter’s imagination. Even worse are annoying anachronisms such as the inclusion of the 1969 pop hit Time of the Season, which pops up in a scene set in 1964. If Scott and his team hadn’t been so sloppy with factual errors then All the Money in the World would be a slam-dunk. It’s a compelling film as long as you remember it’s just a film bearing just a passing resemblance to the actual story.

This movie is playing in Hickory and around the area.

Questions or comments? Write Adam at



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