Customer Review

Reviewed in the United States on July 23, 2018
I thought Darkest Hour was pretty good, though overly stylized. In terms of accuracy, it was good, following the excellent 'Five Days in London, May 1940' by historian John Lukacs (a short, carefully written history on that crucial time in late May / early June 1940 in WW2). I think a couple of problems with the film are my own personal preferences; I do not like the use of light and shadow and distant tracking shots used today. The scenes are too dark and come off almost dream-like. Halifax and Churchill did not shout at each other as depicted in the film, though they did speak sharply, reportedly, in the cabinet meeting. Belgium did not surrender on May 26, but on May 28 (those two days made a big difference, though King Leopold could have hung on longer, like his father did in WW1, given the good defensive positions the Belgians were holding). The Germans were not about to invade as the War Cabinet is told on May 26, and it is highly unlikely they could have ridden 'motorboats' across the Channel and made it safely with British air superiority (over the Channel) and the Royal Navy numbering the Germans at least 10 to 1 and outgunning them 20 to 1 (with a large number of small attack craft available to the British in the Channel). The Germans would not have tried an invasion until France had fallen, and by that time in the summer, the British had recovered from Dunkirk and had stationed 16 divisions in the southeast of Britain alone, and had trained and lightly equipped a home guard of nearly 2 million men (with numerous women in support positions and as lookouts). German plans called for an initial invasion force of about 200,000, and these would have been totally without heavy equipment. Even if they could get ashore with only say 25% casualties, they would have been significantly outnumbered, and air superiority was not forthcoming in fall of 1940. In the film, Churchill is looking scared and constantly lost in thought; a little like the portrayal of Robert E. Lee in the otherwise excellent Gettysburg film. I know of no account of Churchill that shows him dreamy and uncertain, and I doubt he was like that in 1940. If the viewer takes the time to read a little on those events, at least the film provides a fairly accurate account of the meetings and the positions of the various players, though also I think the film made some of the Cabinet too eager to make a deal - it was well known that the Italian Ambassador had little influence with Mussolini, and also that Mussolini at that point had little influence on Hitler himself. So a deal would have been very suspect. Even Halifax himself suspected this, though in public he tried to argue that side of it (which is well portrayed in the film). I'm glad filmmakers are rediscovering the great old stories of WW2, and are not being sloppy about the histories (like the Pearl Harbor film was). Though I wish they wouldn't over-stylize the films with too much darkness, shadows, tongue-in-cheek music, and jumping around in time (like the Dunkirk film). Seems that directors all want to be Orson Welles these days.
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