Joe Wright‘s “Darkest Hour” had its world premiere at the Telluride film festival on Sept. 1 and established Gary Oldman as the Oscar frontrunner for his portrayal of Winston Churchill. The film is set in the first months of his tenure as British prime minister, when he must decide between a negotiated peace with Nazi Germany or a prolonged war.
Oldman is virtually unrecognizable in the role, and this respected veteran should easily earn his second Best Actor nomination (following “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy,” 2011). As for the win? Remember, Oscar voters love to reward performers who play real-life people, including six of the last 10 Best Actor champs. Among those was Colin Firth, who won as another British leader during World War II: King George VI in “The King’s Speech.” Emmy winner Ben Mendelsohn (“Bloodline”) plays him here.
“Darkest Hour” certainly has all the ingredients for an Oscar movie: a heroic real-life figure, a transformative lead performance, a World War II setting, an Oscar-proven director and screenwriter (Wright’s “Atonement” contended for Best Picture, scripter Anthony McCarten did likewise for “The Theory of Everything”). Focus Features has scheduled its release for Nov. 22, a strategic date on the awards calendar.
Oldman is the fourth actor in the last two years to fill Churchill’s shoes, following Michael Gambon in the telefilm “Churchill’s Secret” (2016), John Lithgow in the Netflix series “The Crown” (2016), and Brian Cox in the feature film “Churchill” (2017).
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