Experiencing Darkest Hour On Screen and Off in Los Angeles

Today is Pearl Harbor Day, commemorating that infamous date 76 years ago that led to our country’s involvement in World War II. Though well before my time it remains a significant part of history and its ramifications are felt to this day. Over the years countless films have covered every aspect of the war yet it remains a relevant subject matter. Recently Darkest Hour, about the initial days of Winston Churchill’s tenure as the British prime minister at the beginning of World War II, was released and on Saturday (courtesy of Focus Features) I was able to attend a screening and view an exhibit at The Queen Mary inspired by it.

It’s May of 1940 and the British prime minister, Neville Chamberlain, has just stepped down from office. Winston Churchill, a divisive figure, has been chosen as his replacement and finds himself immediately faced with an ever intensifying European war. Faced with fierce opposition he’s forced to confront the true nature of war and make a decision that will have an immediate impact on his country, Europe and the world.

Gary Oldman stars as Winston Churchill in director Joe Wright’s DARKEST HOUR, a Focus Features release.

Churchill is played by an unrecognizable Gary Oldman in what many consider his finest performance. Personally, I’ve always found Oldman to be a chameleon-like actor who embodies each of his performances yet must admit this is by far his strongest. He IS Winston Churchill and masters the forceful nature of the iconic figure. Supporting Oldman are Kristin Scott Thomas as his wife, Clementine, Lily James as his faithful secretary, Elizabeth Layton, Ben Mendelsohn as King George Vi and Ronald Pickup and Stephen Dillan as his adversaries Neville Chamberlain and Viscount Halifax.

4106_D015_00585_R_CROPGary Oldman stars as Winston Churchill and Ben Mendelsohn as King George VI in director Joe Wright’s DARKEST HOUR, a Focus Features release.Credit: Jack English / Focus Features

Though the majority of the film takes place in the halls of government, under Joe Wright’s direction it’s a gripping, tense film that kept me enraptured the entire time. I’m not the biggest fan of Wright’s, I find his films a bit heavy handed, but I loved Darkest Hour. It’s intensely beautiful, thrillingly dramatic and filled with outstanding performances from every member of the cast.

Ben Mendelsohn and Gary Oldman

Speaking of the cast, I was lucky enough to join two of the stars, Gary Oldman and Ben Mendelsohn at a cocktail reception on the Queen Mary after the screening.

In honor of Churchill we enjoyed whiskey, cigars and fine British fair before previewing the ship’s latest exhibit, Their Finest Hours.

This immersive experience tells of Churchill’s role in World War II and includes original artifacts and well as recreated sets from Darkest Hour.

I found the exhibit entirely fascinating and spent a good deal of time wandering around the sets imagining what it must have been like in the War Rooms all those years ago.

Darkest Hour and the accompanying exhibit, Their Finest Hours, are both beautiful tributes to one of our most important historical figures.Both available for a limited time they’re definitely worth seeking out.

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