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Joe Wright
Gary Oldman, Kristin Scott Thomas, Lily James
Writing Credits:
Anthony McCarten

During the early days of World War II, the fate of Western Europe hangs on the newly-appointed British Prime Minister Winston Churchill

Box Office:
Opening Weekend
$3,891,945 on 806 Screens.
Domestic Gross

Rated PG-13.

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
English Dolby Atmos
Spanish Dolby 7.1
French Dolby 5.1
English DVS
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 125 min.
Price: $34.98
Release Date: 2/27/2018

• Audio Commentary with Director Joe Wright
• “Into Darkest Hour” Featurette
• “Becoming Churchill” Featurette
• Previews
• DVD Copy


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Darkest Hour [Blu-Ray] (2017)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (February 13, 2018)

For a look at Britain during the early stages of World War II, we head to 2017’s Darkest Hour. When Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain (Ronald Pickup) proves ineffective in the face of the Nazi threat, the need for a new leader becomes apparent.

Into the breach steps Winston Churchill (Gary Oldman), the British First Lord of the Admiralty. None of the political elite seem enthusiastic at his appointment to the job as Prime Minister, but he appears to be the only candidate who can gain a decent level of support from a variety of parties.

Churchill takes office in May 1940 and immediately needs to confront a mix of challenges. In addition to the imminent threat from the Germans, Churchill must fend off disagreements within the Brits themselves to find the best path to deal with the war.

50 years from now, when anyone remembers Hour, I strongly suspect it’ll be due to Oldman’s performance. As I write this in mid-February 2018, he stands as the most likely winner of the Best Actor Oscar, and his work as Churchill becomes the main reason to watch the film.

Not that Hour offers a poor film otherwise, as it always seems more than competent. Veteran director Joe Wright imbues it with enough drama and momentum to make it completely watchable.

However, Wright doesn’t add anything new or fresh to the experience. While always professional, Hour gives us the kind of conventional drama that we’ve seen many times in the past, so it fails to become a particularly enticing tale in its own right.

Oldman elevates the material and rescues Wright. Though buried under “fat suit” makeup, Oldman inhabits the part with fire and fierceness that allow his talents to emerge.

Because we’ve gotten so many good performances from Oldman for so many years, we can take him for granted. Oldman’s work as Churchill offers a thorough transformation that reminds us once again what a gifted chameleon he can be.

Excellent makeup work helps, as the artists behind Oldman’s physical appearance create remarkable quality. Honestly, when I first saw Hour, I assumed Oldman had packed on the pounds for the part – I felt gobsmacked to learn he acted through layers of makeup and “fat”, as the visuals seem virtually seamless.

I just wish Hour itself lived up to the highs of Oldman’s performance. While the film brings us a reasonably compelling dramatic experience, it simply seems too “by the numbers” to become a standout production.

Footnote: for a fairly smooth double feature, pair Darkest Hour with fellow 2017 Best Picture nominee Dunkirk. Hour ends right about where Dunkirk begins, so they fit together nicely.

The Disc Grades: Picture B+/ Audio B/ Bonus C+

Darkest Hour appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. This became a more than satisfactory presentation.

Overall sharpness worked well. A few interiors could be a little tentative, but the majority of the movie appeared accurate and concise.

I noticed no signs of jaggies or edge enhancement, and shimmering was absent. The film lacked print flaws and seemed clean.

Many period pieces opt for subdued palettes, and that was definitely true here. The colors of Hour tended toward a laid-back mix of amber and teal, without much to call vivid. Still, these were fine given the stylistic choices.

Blacks seemed dark and right, and shadows demonstrated fairly good clarity, though interiors were slightly dense at times. Even with some minor drawbacks, this still felt like a “B+” image.

A movie about politicians wouldn’t seem to be a candidate for a dynamic soundtrack, and the Dolby Atmos audio of Hour largely fell into expected realms. This was a chatty flick, though it occasionally displayed lively elements.

A few war-related moments fared best, as those showed movement and range. These were pretty infrequent, though, so good stereo music and general ambience ruled the day. This meant we got a nice sense of place but rarely much more.

Audio quality satisfied. Music was full and rich, while effects showed nice clarity and accuracy, with strong low-end during those occasional war moments,

Speech – obviously an important factor here – appeared concise and crisp. Nothing here soared, but it all seemed positive.

A few extras appear here, and we open with an audio commentary from director Joe Wright. He provides a running, screen-specific look at story/characters, historical elements and adaptation, cast and performances, sets and locations, cinematography, makeup effects and costumes, audio and music, and editing.

Prior commentaries from Wright tended to be hit or miss, and that trend continues with this lackluster chat. At his best, Wright manages to deliver some nice production insights, but plenty of slow spots occur. These turn this into a decent but not great track.

Two featurettes follow, and Into Darkest Hour goes for eight minutes, 16 seconds. It offers notes from Wright, screenwriter Anthony McCarten, producers Douglas Urbanski and Lisa Bruce, hair and makeup designer Ivina Primorac, costume designer Jacqueline Durran, production designer Sarah Greenwood, historical advisor Phil Reed, and actors Gary Oldman, Kristin Scott Thomas, Lily James, and Ben Mendelsohn.

“Into” looks at story/characters, cast and performances, costumes and period details, sets and locations, and Wright’s impact on the production. Despite a smattering of useful details, most of “Into” offers basic movie promotion.

Becoming Churchill lasts four minutes, 19 seconds and features notes from Wright, Oldman, Mendelsohn, James, McCarten, Reed, and prosthetics, makeup and hair designer Kazuhiro Tsuji. The short offers notes about aspects of Oldman’s performance and the elements used to create the physical transformation.

I hoped “Becoming” would bring us a nice glimpse of the makeup specifics. Instead, it mainly tells us that Oldman did an awesome job as Churchill – which is true but doesn’t make this an informative piece.

The disc opens with ads for Phantom Thread, All I See Is You, and The Man Who Invented Christmas. No trailer for Hour appears here.

A second disc provides a DVD copy of Hour. It includes the same extras as the Blu-ray.

Buoyed by an excellent lead performance from Gary Oldman, Darkest Hour always maintains our interest. However, it fails to rise above the level of “pretty good”, as director Joe Wright plays it a little too safe. The Blu-ray brings us largely solid picture and audio as well as some decent supplements. Hour turns into an enjoyable but overly traditional drama.

Viewer Film Ratings: 2.5 Stars Number of Votes: 2
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