Archive for the ‘Joe Wright’ Category

Victory at Any Cost

Darkest Hour

Director: Joe Wright

Cast: Gary Oldman, Kristin Scott Thomas, Lily James, Ben Mendelsohn, Stephen Dillane, Ronald Pickup, Samuel West, David Schofield, Joe Armstrong, David Strathairn

Oscar nominee Gary Oldman (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy) gives an Oscar worthy performance in his nuanced portrayal of cantankerous British Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill whose face is completely transformed to look like Churchill thanks to the superb makeup and prosthetic by Kazuhiro Tsuji.

Acclaimed director of Atonement Joe Wright is the perfect candidate to steer this compelling political war drama Darkest Hour as the story meticulously tracks the events from Churchill’s inauguration as prime minister, including a particularly refined scene between the PM and King George VI wonderfully played by Ben Mendelsohn to the anxious events leading up to the ingenuous evacuation of British troops from the beaches at Dunkirk, successfully anticipated and engineered by Churchill himself and the British sea going public.

If Christopher Nolan’s latest film, Dunkirk is a stunning depiction of that crucial maritime military evacuation, then Joe Wright’s Darkest Hour is the companion film showing the political and administrative events which lead to that escape from the invading Nazi forces which were aggressively sweeping across the European continent in May 1940.

The fact that both Dunkirk and Darkest Hour are vying for Best Picture at the 90th Oscars is a testament to how exceptional both films are made. Joe Wright should have got an Oscar nomination for Best Director.

At the heart of Darkest Hour is Gary Oldman’s finest onscreen performance, a superb acting tour-de-force in which he completely embodies every aspect of Winston Churchill from his unconventional drinking habits to his affectionate if often tumultuous relationship with his level headed wife Clementine superbly played by Oscar nominee Kristin Scott Thomas (The English Patient).

Oldman’s performance rarely falters and actually improves as Darkest Hour progresses, a performance with such gusto and insight that all audiences will see is Winston Churchill, a seasoned politician, a risk taker and a man who had the entire fate of the British nation in his sometimes shaky hands, yet who realized the gravity of the approaching invasion of the Germans at the beginning of World War II.

Churchill’s doubt about whether the British must fight Hitler to the bitter end or sue for an untrustworthy peace is conveyed in an extremely relevant scene between him and the king who politely suggests that perhaps as prime minister, Churchill should seek advice from the British public, encapsulated in a jingoistic scene whereby he discusses the grave decision with commuters on the London underground before stepping off at Westminster.

Aided by theatrical costumes by Oscar winner Jacqueline Durran (Anna Karenina) and a sumptuous production design, Darkest Hour is an epic film made all the more riveting by a staggering performance by Gary Oldman who must surely get the long awaited recognition he deserves for his limitless acting talent and his pivotal contribution to world cinema.

Darkest Hour gets a Film rating: 9.5 out of 10 and is highly recommended for viewers that love historical biographies such as The King’s Speech and The Iron Lady.

A Lost Chance at Amendment

Atonement

atonement

Joe Wright’s sumptious cinematic version of the acclaimed novel Atonement by Ian McEwan is really worth viewing a second time round…

Having read Atonement in 2007 and waited for the big screen version of the tale about real and imagined crimes, war and the devastation of innocence, I was suitably impressed by Wright’s cinematic version of a complex novel by author McEwan. Only on a second viewing do I fully appreciate the intricate variations of a grand tale about innocence, loss and the absolute devastation of World War II on all nations concerned. With a brilliant screenplay by the masterful Christopher Hampton, who brought us Dangerous Liaisons and the elegant film Carrington about the life of Lytton Strachey, Wright propels the viewer into an elegant scene of the snobbish society of English country life that is soon transformed forever at the approaching threat of war… showing both those that profits off war’s destruction and those that lose everything by the infinite devastation of endless violence.

*****

What makes Wright’s film version so brilliant, is his effective use of water as a motif both for purification and as a form of atonement and cleansing, whether its the illicit sexual encounters of a lazy English sultry summer afternoon or the sponging of blood and grime from the wounded soldiers as they return from the Theatre of war, that was France in 1940.  From the retreat at Dunkirk to the blitz of London and the losses suffered by all, Atonement paints a grim and prophetic picture of a world without order, direction or compassion, where many must suffer for the mistakes of the few. Wright’s cinematic achievement is that wonderfully long tracking shot on the beaches of France as the English forces prepare for an initial retreat, and the wake of devastation left behind, as one of the central characters Robbie turns and survey the catastrophe of confusion and anarchy. A society on the brink of collapse, seemingly without redemption.

Atonement focuses also on conflicting narratives, embellishments and the dangers of an imagination too rampant to remain real, only realised through the loss of innocence and that inexhaustible sense of wasted time. Besides alternative settings of elegance and destruction, are poignant performances by a superb cast that tackle the subject matter with an earnest command of look and suspense. The original score by Dario Marinelli is brilliant and exceptionally evocative, and is in line with similar films about war, love and lost chances in the tradition of The English Patient and The Remains of the Day.

Audiences should watch out for a superb performance by Saoirse Ronan as the precocious and prying Briony Tallis, who sets in motion a series of misguided accusations which can never be rectified. Saoirse Ronan deservedly received an Oscar nomination for her role as the imaginative 13 year old girl, who does not fully grasp the motives or desires of adults, particularly those of her sister Cecilia played by Keira Knightley and Robbie Turner played by James McAvoy.

Ian McEwan’s novel, Atonement is a multi-layed superbly descriptive account of the erosion of social stability in the face of a world inevitably altered by the onset of the most dramatic event in the 20th century…

The novel  is a thought-provoking and intelligent study of English society on the brink of a significant historical turning point, the affects of which still resonate today…

Even if you have seen the film,  the novel is worth reading and then set aside a luxurious afternoon to afford yourself a second viewing of Atonement.  Both endeavors are enriching and speculative, not to mention thought-provoking… After all, how is a person to atone for an accusation that irrevocably changes the course of a families history forever…

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