28 January 2018

Oldman Does As He Must

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In many ways the problem with Gary Oldman's Winston Churchill make-up is how good it is. Because most of the time you stare amazed at how spot-on it looks, and then he takes his glasses off and you're distracted by the fact that Churchill is wearing Gary Oldman's fucking eyes. Obviously it'd be impossible to get the likeness completely perfect, but this film comes so close that whenever a minute imperfection appears you're distracted for a split second and reminded that it's all a performance. It's kind of like having a friend that's a reformed drug addict over for lunch and having the best time ever with them, but, despite how much you know they've changed their circumstances and who they are, if they were to even look at the medicine cabinet you'd get a momentary flash of them squirting Germaline into their gums and then burning the house down to hide your murdered corpse. As the hunched and bulldog-like Prime Minister paces through the shadows, you could be easily forgiven for thinking we were directly looking back through time at the real man. But then he'll lean too far forwards, his prosthetic jowls will hang slightly oddly and briefly you'll be expecting him to burst into song like Dame Edna's Goblin King from The fucking Hobbit.

This might sound like a huge fucking nit-pick and in a way it completely is. But that's only because there's an obvious solution to the problem which is to simply not bother with the prosthetics at all. A few months back Brian Cox played the man in the film Churchill and for the entire duration he looked exactly like Brian Cox. Of course he adopted the mannerisms and various subtle physicalities that you might expect for the character and as such you simply relax into the performance and buy it completely for what it is. At no point does Cox turn around and cause you to wonder if the Kings stutter is a speech impediment or if he's just shitting himself in front of Hannibal Lector because by now you're used to Cox looking like Cox. Gary Oldman does give a great performance and as of now he's understandably a favourite for Best Actor at the upcoming Oscars. Unless they have Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway opening envelopes again in which case fuck knows who'll win?! However my other issue is in the writing of the character here with Churchill essentially being the cliché that we've seen a million times. You don't really get a sense of him as a human like you did with Cox with this film depicting him as the idol that was good at speeches and less as a man being crushed by too much pressure and the self-doubt that comes with it. Although to be fair he was still better than whatever that fucking dog was doing in those car insurance adverts.

I hate to go on about Cox but I feel that Oldman's film gives itself an easier job than that other one did too by focusing on the Dunkirk evacuation. The film knows we're all on Churchill's side because after the Union Jack and pictures of Helen Mirren in a crown, it seems to be his legacy that most 'patriots' and nationalists wank themselves off over. In the screening of this movie that I saw there were so many old people that things would have resembled a George Romero movie if it wasn't for the fact that they coughed so much that I worried I might get the fucking plague. Cox's film was more challenging in that we saw Churchill arguing against D-Day because he was terrified about the loss of life. Obviously we know that D-Day turned out to be one of the final nails in Hitler's bollock and so it was interesting to see this icon fighting against a plan that will work but because of his worry for the individuals involved. However in this movie we see Churchill send four-thousand people on a suicide mission as a distraction and for the greater good because he's convinced his Dunkirk plan will work. Again, obviously he is right in this situation but at no point do we really see him think of those four-thousand people as anything more than pins on a map. I have a friend with a map on their wall and pins all over it which I'd assumed was symbolic of places they've visited. So either this film showed us Churchill's holiday history or there's a chance that my friend has sent a lot of fucking people to their deaths.

Not only that but the main villain of the piece seems to be Stephen Dillane's Halifax who pesters Churchill to consider surrendering like a nagging partner that wants you to stop spaffing on the curtains. Some people can be so fucking unreasonable. However from the film the only reason that Halifax wants Churchill to surrender is because he's aware of the odds facing the men at Dunkirk. Perhaps there's a more historical reason that we shouldn't like Halifax that I'm not aware of because we had a history teacher at school that we could distract with pretty little effort. But right now I think there are more reasons to demonise a politician than their human empathy or worry for innocent lives... regardless of which 'shithole' country they come from... which is kind of the reason that I liked Brian Cox's Churchill more. Oh and whilst we're talking about history there's a scene here in which we see Churchill sneak onto the underground to talk to the public and maybe that really did happen? For all I know that scene could be historically accurate down to the fucking word. And yet in the context of the movie I just don't believe it in the slightest. I can't explain why except to say that the whole thing played out like a Christmas movie in which Father Christmas appears to a group of orphans and everybody leaves ringing a fucking sleigh-bell.

None of this is to say that Darkest Hour isn't a good film by the way. Its problem is that it just comes out within a twelve month window in which there's been a more interesting Churchill movie and a far superior Dunkirk movie. Compare this to the Nazis darkest hour too with Hitlers final hours in Downfall and there's really no comparison. When watching that there's a grittiness and sense of authenticity that makes it feel as though you're in the bunker with them whereas here you can never shake away that feeling of artifice that reminds you it's all just a film. Maybe that's down to the prosthetics, the simplicity of the script, or the simple fact that we all already know we're watching scenes that will be shown again at the fucking Oscars. However even director Joe Wright has done a better Dunkirk movie with his single tracking shot on the beach in Atonement being more evocative and emotional than everything this film has to offer. Oldman plays the symbol of Churchill brilliantly and I have no doubt that he'll be off on his merry way to amass a collection of giant golden dildos over the next few months awards do's. But for everybody boning off this performance I'd point to Tinker, Tailer, Soldier, Spy to show how great he is in a film that's equal to him... or better yet if you short on time just the five minute clip of him screaming “Evvvveeeerrrryyyyyooooonnnnnneeeeee” in Leon. Thanks for reading, motherfuckers, and see you next time.

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