"Darkest Hour" is a quasi-documentary about WW2 hero Winston Churchill and his story about how he had to face the decision of whether to fight or surrender to the Third Reich Nazi Party in May of 1940. The film shows this through a portrayal of his thinking and discussion process every day, from the thoughts behind Dunkirk mission to his speech in the House of Commons that led to the success of the war where Britain never surrendered.
Throughout the film, there isn't much backstory to who Churchill was and his deeds done before the Second World War. Therefore, the Conservative Party's suspicion of him is not easy to understand from a viewer's point of view. The film simply explains that after the outbreak of World War II, Atlee (the leader of the opposing Labour Party) criticized Prime Minister Chamberlain for his mistakes and Hitler's compromise.
This discussion initiated by Atlee makes him even more invested in starting the Second World War. And so, he forced Chamberlain to resign, but not without Chamberlain recommending King George VI that Churchill should be the one to take over instead.
The story also introduces the audience to all the hurdles that Churchill had to overcome, including dealing with his wife and children, political colleagues and enemies, aides and subordinates, military allies, King George VI and the public. The film also lays out how Churchill faced the temptation to negotiate with Nazi Germany and continued to resist the war.
In the first half of the movie, the most interesting part is when Chamberlain and Lord Halifax talked political tactical strategy about how the war was going to work. In the second half of the movie, the most interesting part would be where King George VI talked with Churchill in the middle of the night, telling him how he would stay in the UK and not in exile to show his support of the resistance.
Efforts are clearly made by the director to add more women and POC (People of Colour) into the movie, to most likely show how people of different cultures and genders all united together to help the resistance. Of course, these two aspects are dramatized for the movie and don't have much historical significance.
On the other hand, a section of the movie that is heavily lacking on more historical fact - the portrayal of the battle of Dunkirk. All 300,000 troops actually miraculously returned with no casualties, which was portrayed well in the way that it captured the essence of the victorious feeling the British had, but the film didn't go into much detail on the matter.
Unlike movies that focus on big ideas and/or happenings such as "Dunkirk", "Darkest Hour" actually takes on a Kammerspielfilm style, which portrays more of the intimate life behind the big happenings. There are no big scenes and thousands of horses. There are no martial arts or cinematic shots of troops charging straight into a war.
On the other hand, the scenes focus on the people's interactions, challenges and cooperations with each other. The cinematography also contains simpler scenes and more indoor scenes, in order to express Churchill's irritable personality and the pressure he had to bear; he tends to appear in as a large person in the shots but in a compact composition, while the lens is unstable and composed. There are many imbalances and cuts, which could be a metaphor for the rough times of the era.
The film uses cool, dark, and faded colours to give the audience a sense of nostalgia, as well as a feeling that the film talks about something back in older days in history. The background music and overall soundtrack is outstanding and does a good job of blending with the moods and timbre of the scene. Last but definitely not least, the actor in the leading role Gary Oldman is unquestionably amazing. Without him, Churchill's actions wouldn't be as well captured by the film. Though the production cost wasn't high, it does well to fully summarise (in an interesting way, no doubt) this political figure at this important moment in history and how he did it.