J ust as Britain negotiates its inglorious retreat from Europe, and our political classes prepare to ratify the chaotic abandonment of a union intended to prevent another war, there seems to be a renewed appetite for movies about This is not so much a period war movie as a high-octane political thriller: May as House Of Cards, with the wartime Prime Minister up against a cabal of politicians who want to do him down. They are played respectively by Ronald Pickup and Stephen Dillane, the latter having a malign mandarin impassivity. Dillane makes him a pretty unholy fox. Darkest Hour has obvious similarities to the recent film Churchill, with Brian Cox; like that drama it imagines a pretty young WAAF figure as his secretary, for him to be at first grumpy and then soppy with - Lily James plays this part here. There is a scene a bit fancifully imagined with Churchill slumped in a bleakly lit almost unfurnished room, where he looks like something by Lucian Freud.
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It asks you to engage intellectually, not just viscerally. And why not: the decisions it depicts may have determined the fate of the world. The Winston Churchill we see here is no cartoon hero or plaster saint. After charting the perilous political waters, he must navigate to gain the support of his war cabinet, the film climaxes with a sublime invention: a scene in which Churchill, on the way to Parliament, bounds out of his traffic-bound limousine, hops on the Underground and listens to a car full of average Londoners voice their support for his war aims.
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