Tuesday, November 14, 2017

It Is, Perhaps, The End of the Beginning

Darkest Hour, Joe Wright's riveting new wartime picture-show, would play as a fascinating double-feature with Spielberg's Lincoln - here is what politics is for, and here is how politics can really work, times two. Lives, many many lives, are on the line, while these men (they are all men of course, although they've got a good lady or two bending their ear behind the scenes) stand encased in stagnant libraries far from the bloodshed. But they, the greats anyway, make work of it, turning words into bullets and sentences into spears, atom bombs of great ideas, sliding the dusty course of history a millimeter rightward; just barely enough, but enough, for the time.

Gary Oldman, ensconced in latex chins, those darkly oceanic eyes of his peering out from honest to goodness another's man's face - it's a revelation of movie magic, this marrying of Winston Churchill with Harry Potter's Uncle, Sid Vicious, Dracula and Commissioner Gordon. It's on the right side of uncanny - Oldman owns it. He sputters and burbles around, always believably, the brain and bluster of a wartime Rimbaud stuck inside the body of Oswald Chesterfield Cobblepot.

The movie meets him punch for paunch. Joe Wright's tireless camera seems incapable of plunking itself down where ever you expect it to - oh no he's over there, to the side, or swooping in god like, bomb like, from above. The movie's all the better for it. It's a talky thing, in the good sense - an imagination machine. The flashes of military horrors are seemingly conjured straight from mouths, like speech bubbles of atrocity hovering over Londontown, prepared to pop at any moment. It gets that feeling of doom, a closing in like a storm cloud, the air green with electricity, down pat.

We know that feeling well. Darkest Hour feels somewhat terrible in its timeliness, damp with present day parallels. We're drowning, across decades. The world churns. So let's take the hand that Churchill offers us across the gulf - embattled from all sides he, drunk and abused, persevered. And he gave his people back just enough belief in themselves; just enough to beat back the menace, enough to survive another day. We should listen. It's not like we have a lot of options these days. So let's look for and gulp down inspiration where ever we can find it.

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