San Francisco Chronicle – Mick LaSalle
Winston Churchill lived a life that was long and “not … entirely uneventful,” as he once put it, and so it’s only fitting that he should be the subject of movies. Hence, across the veil of years, we have seen tall Churchills, obese Churchills, sloppy Churchills, gross Churchills and scowling bulldog Churchills, and yet not one movie or TV Churchill has come close to giving us the man in full, both in look and spirit, until Gary Oldman in “Darkest Hour.”
For viewers interested in history, the fascination of this performance — the sense of actually seeing events we have only imagined — has no comparison in impact besides that of Daniel Day Lewis in “Lincoln.” There he is not tall, not especially fat. There he is, not just the voice, but the gestures, which combined an older man’s stiffness with a boy’s enthusiasm and energy.
Oldman’s main accomplishment, however, is in the way he captures the many nuances of Churchill’s demeanor and personality. There was something rather cute about Churchill, something lovable about him, which is not to say that Oldman goes around trying to be cu- te and lovable. Rather, he is irascible and impossible and sentimental and romantic and frustrated. But in all ways, this Churchill is human and authentic, and fighting alone to save his country and the world from Nazi barbarism.
This is not a movie for the cog- nitively impaired. It presents a win- dow into the human side of the deci- sions made leading up to D-Day, and the conflicts they raised. These con- flicts were personal, political, and so- cietal, and are not something that
can be expressed in either 140 cha- racters, or 90 minutes.
Don’t expect a movie about D- Day, or war. Enjoy the window into
Gary Oldman is Winston Churchill politics at all levels, and the inherent complexity humanity injects into the process.
TheWrap – Robert Abele
The wartime bio-drama “Churchill” ends with a sentence stating that its subject, two-time British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, is usually considered “the greatest Bri- ton of all time.”
If you knew nothing of that small island’s looming lion of politics and war morale, however, you might be shocked at that assessment after watching “Churchill,” which stars Brian Cox in the title role. That’s because this snapshot of the man in the days before D-Day mostly portrays him as a doddering, foul-tempered, and fearful leader on the brink of losing it.
Director Jonathan Teplitsky (“The Railway Man”) and screenwriter-historian Alex von Tunselmann have taken an intriguing footnote of Churchill’s World War II — that he initially opposed the opening of the Second Front on the French coast by a massive Allied force — and turned it into an off-putting hybrid of Great-Man biopic and crisis-of-will psychodrama. It’s material that seems better suited to the intimacy of a theater setting than a movie that wants the patriotic sweep of nostalgic iconography (caressing shots of his cane, Homburg hat, cigar and Cox’s commanding jowls) while also pulling back the curtain on a legendary statesman’s darkest thoughts.