The main reason for me to see DARKEST HOUR was Lily James. I've never been disappointed by a performance of hers. And I can see why they cast her as Churchill's secretary, to add some ordinary human-scale emotional engagement to an essentially intellectual drama (and, surprisingly, Ben Mendelsohn's performance as the king does the same).
And friends I respect liked it a lot. And I wanted to see if all the fuss about Gary Oldman's performance was warranted. And I like the director, Joe Wright, and the writer, Anthony McCarten. And Kristin Scott Thomas is always good. But Gary Oldman's performance, despite the striking physical transformation, was not the one I would be giving all the awards to for best of 2017, and for me the directing is not Wright's best—too much, for my taste, dawdling with set pieces and tracking shots establishing time and place almost in-your-face obvious.
Oldman is always something to watch, even though he is also often over-the-top. His early work in films was extraordinary, and his later work was often mesmerizing, but for me, for the wrong reasons, like a spectacle of its own rather than a part of a story the movie is meant to tell. Full disclosure, I hung out with him once during the after party of a Hollywood gathering when a few folks, all more successful and known than me, were winding down in the wee hours and talking about all kinds of topics.
He was smart and did not take the bait when I criticized his performance in STATE OF GRACE which had just come out and was about people I thought I understood better (the Irish gangsters of Hell's Kitchen when it still deserved that name). He actually agreed with me, and his humility completely disarmed me. I would like to see more of that guy, in the characters he plays, and less of the over-the-top showmanship.
Though to his credit, as Churchill he does reign it in at times, and has some scenes where he is even poignantly vulnerable. If you see it, let me know what you think.