As one of cinema’s leading character actors, Gary Oldman has previously lost himself in immersive portrayals of such real-world figures as Sid Vicious, Lee Harvey Oswald, and Ludwig van Beethoven. Now he’s winning some of the best reviews of his career for a role he didn’t initially want: Winston Churchill. In the new film Darkest Hour, Oldman vanishes into the face and form of England’s former Prime Minister, who led the island nation through the dark days of World War II. His performance has impressive film festival audiences from Telluride to Toronto and makes him an early favorite in this year’s Oscar race for Best Actor — a statue he’s only been in contention for once before for his star turn in the 2011 John le Carré adaptation, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.
In the latest trailer for Darkest Hour (watch above), Oldman completely disappears into the character, who must rally Britain in the face of monumental odds.
A companion piece, of sorts, to Christopher Nolan’s summertime box-office hit Dunkirk, Darkest Hour depicts what was happening in London’s halls of power as British faced destruction on the beaches of France. Having assumed the office after Neville Chamberlin’s resignation, Churchill faced the monumental choice of continuing to fight the emboldened Axis forces or negotiate a peace treaty that would leave England out of the war that was consuming continental Europe. Where Dunkirk was more of an ensemble piece, Darkest Hour director Joe Wright and writer Anthony McCarten are well aware that Oldman’s performance is the movie’s best special effect. Witness his uncanny transformation yourself when the movie opens in theaters on Nov. 22.
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