By Bradley Griffith

Newly released for home rental, “Darkest Hour” tells the story of what happened behind the scenes in the British government when Winston Churchill was elevated to the position of Prime Minister of the United Kingdom during World War II. Even though it was nominated for many Academy Awards, it’s not one of the best movies of last year, but it is worth renting at home.

The movie opens on May 9, 1940. The Nazis have conquered virtually all of Europe. Due to his weak leadership in the face of the Nazi campaign, the British Parliament has lost all faith in the leadership of Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain (Ronald Pickup). Even though a vote of no confidence in the leadership of Chamberlain does not pass, the powers that be recognize that Chamberlain must resign his post and King George VI (Ben Mendelsohn) must appoint a new prime minister. Chamberlain wants the post to go to Lord Halifax (Stephen Dillane), but Lord Halifax says he is not ready to be Prime Minister.

The only other person in the Conservative Party that would be supported by the Labour Party was an unpopular man by the name of Winston Churchill (Gary Oldman). Against his better judgment, King George appoints Churchill to be the new Prime Minister. Few people even in his own party are happy with the appointment of Churchill.

Churchill immediately convenes a War Cabinet to devise a strategy to combat the Nazis. Included on the War Cabinet specifically because they disagree with Churchill are Neville Chamberlain and Lord Halifax. Churchill quickly learns that the entirety of the British Army, over 300,000 soldiers, have been pushed back to the sea in France at the town of Dunkirk. The soldiers are trapped with no way to make it home and the German hordes closing in around them.

Churchill is convinced that the only way to deal with the Nazis is to fight them. Chamberlain and Halifax believe that they must seek to negotiate terms of peace with the Nazis. The bulk of the movie deals with whether Churchill should attempt to negotiate peace with Hitler or continue to fight against overwhelming odds and risk the total destruction of England.

“Darkest Hour” is largely about the backroom politics in England during the several weeks after Churchill was appointment Prime Minister. The movie made it appear that the politicians were too busy fighting amongst each other to wage any type of war on Germany or even devise a strategy to rescue the army from Dunkirk. It was only when Churchill sought the advice of the citizens of England that his belief in the free world was restored.

Gary Oldman did a good job as Churchill. The makeup required to transform him into Winston Churchill was astonishing and flawless. The makeup was so well done that it was impossible to recognize Oldman behind the movie magic. Still, the most interesting character in the movie was Clemmie Churchill, played by Kristin Scott Thomas. While Churchill propped up the nation, Clemmie propped up Churchill and proved the old adage that behind every good man is a great woman.

One thing to keep in mind when deciding whether to rent “Darkest Hour” is that, even though it takes place during World War II, it is not a war movie. In fact, there is no action at all. It’s about the political drama and how Churchill shepherded the entire free world through this pivotal moment in the history of mankind. While that sounds heavy, there are lighter, tongue-in-cheek moments that periodically brighten the mood.

“Darkest Hour” takes place in what could arguably be considered the most pivotal point in the history of the British Empire. There was considerable pressure placed on Churchill to negotiate peace with the Nazis. Churchill believed that there could be no peace with such monsters. History shows that Churchill was correct.

•••

Grade: B+

Rated PG-13 for some thematic material.