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Darkest Hour (Blu-ray Review)

Coming just in time for you to catch it at home, if you weren’t able to make it in the theater, in preparation for the upcoming Academy Awards is Darkest Hour. The film is mostly lauded for its performance from actor Gary Oldman as Winston Churchill (Nominated for Best Actor and already having collected awards during this “season”). Many have said this film makes a great companion to Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk (Also nominated for many awards this year). This Blu-ray comes with a couple bonus features and will be available for you to pick up on the extremely loaded new release day of February 27th. You can pre-order it, as well as the many other titles coming out that day, by finding the reviews or press releases on Why So Blu and clicking the Amazon link.

Film 

In Darkest Hour, Hitler’s forces storm across the European landscape and close in on the United Kingdom, Winston Churchill is elected the new Prime Minister. With his party questioning his every move, and King George VI skeptical of his new political leader, it is up to Churchill to lead his nation and protect them from the most dangerous threat ever seen.

Every year seems to bring about two similar films covering the same topic. Its not the first time I’ve gone over here at Why So Blu, I’m sure, but we have hit this crossroads again. This time with the subject of Dunkirk during World War II. Which reminds me, I’m covering both of these. While Christopher Nolan’s, also nominated for Best Picture, film was right there in the thick of it, Darkest Hour showcases the behind the scenes of the even going on. What was happening back home for the soldiers during this time.  The films fascinatingly compliment each other and fill in sort of unasked question holes one might have when watching the other and didn’t really think it.

While Darkest Hour isn’t as exciting as Dunkirk or demanding of being seen on the biggest screen possible, it isn’t without its own tenseness in the drama department. If you’re not into action, maybe you’re more invested in the deep politics and personal dramas shown here. The film shows the British government going through a truly trying time and showing the angle of a more 50/50 like split on possibly negotiating peace with Germany than you may have presumed.

What the film is most notable for, and where it succeeds best is the performance of Gary Oldman. A man known for beloved characters, villains and top notch performances, he is completely transformed here. And no, its not just the fat suit and old age make-up that does it. I’m positive he could have just done this looking like Gary Oldman on a Tuesday and been just as convincing. He’s been garnering quite acclaim and feels maybe that he’s the obvious “One to beat” looking through the press for the Awards season. Not to be overlooked is a very good companion performance in that of the rising Lily James who continues to be a charming personality in films and made good this year on having this and Baby Driver to add to her successes.

Darkest Hour is a fine film top to bottom. Its also one of those movies that drums up toward to the end of the year and completely fits the “Oscar bait” bill. A term which I think is pretty much used by people who don’t go see those movies and turn their nose up. Though, as with most of those, when you do see the thing, you realize its a pretty good movie whether you feel it awards worthy or not. Gary Oldman’s performance is primary reason to check this out, but if you liked Dunkirk, you need to check it out as well.

Video 

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

Layers: BD-50

Clarity/Detail: Darkest Hour debuts on Blu-ray with a really solid, beautiful looking picture. It has a specific, colder color timing that works quite well for it. The image is crisp with good texture standing out in it. Walls show every bit of deterioration to them as well as the breakfast on Churchill’s morning plates looks well enough to eat right there. Clothing shows fuzzies and fabric detail all over.

Depth:  Solid foreground and background separation on display here in the picture. Movements are natural and smooth with no distortions.

Black Levels: Blacks are deep and the film carries a strong in the shadows kind of look to it. It enhances the sort of sharpness and lining of everything in the frame No crushing witnessed during this viewing.

Color Reproduction: The film is one of more natural and not robust in the color department. Clothing and such all looks bold and strong in its presentation. There are a couple moments of some fire and the like that stick out quite well.

Flesh Tones: Skin tones are a hair on the colder side due to stylistic choice and maintain a consistency from start to finish of the film. Facial features, textures and such are clear as day here, which goes as the ultimately compliment for the makeup department regarding Gary Oldman’s Churchill as it looks absolutely genuine at every turn.

Noise/Artifacts: Clean

Audio 

Audio Format(s): English Dolby Atmos (English 7.1 Dolby TrueHD compatible), Spanish 7.1 Dolby Digital Plus, French 5.1 Dolby Digital, DVS (Descriptive Video Service)

Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French

Dynamics: I find it funny I just reviewed two Tomb Raider films that had forgone the Atmos, but here we are with Darkest Hour, that mainly takes place in various meetings or a quiet house and its like “Damn right, we’re doing Atmos!”. The track is effectively mixed, giving you a lifelike feeling of all the environments from trains, to underground tunnels to government floor hearings. Everything sounds so crisp and damn near perfect in the overall blend.

Height: The ceiling speakers aren’t called upon much for a striking addition, but they are effective with planes flying overhead, echoing in a loud room and various ambient moments.

Low Frequency Extension: Trains rumbling through tunnels, war bombs going off, gavels pounding and even some doors shutting loudly boom with the subwoofer.

Surround Sound Presentation: This mix has plenty of life and works the room with a really good attention on ambiance from surrounding speakers. Unique things and movement does travel from the front to the back, but most of the bigger, louder moments take place up front.

Dialogue Reproduction: Vocals are loose, crisp and well displayed in their diction for each character.

Extras 

Darkest Hour comes with the Blu-ray edition and a digital copy of the film.

Audio Commentary

  • With Director Joe Wright

Into Darkest Hour (HD, 8:16) – A brief cruise through the historical time that this takes place, characters, design, praising the director, historical accuracy and finding places to shoot. Pretty much your “Making Of” fluff featurette.

Gary Oldman: Becoming Chuchill (HD, 4:19) – Oldman talks his thoughts on being offered the role and his preparation as everyone one in the cast and crew marvels over Oldman’s transformation in this film and his performance.

Summary 

Darkest Hour is a solid film, one that very much feels like the much accused “Oscar bait” picture, but nonetheless good. This Blu-ray presentation is top of the line with a fine presentation in both audio and video. I was pleased to see the usage of Atmos here, even if the film doesn’t demand much from it. Extras are a bit of fluff with a commentary. Overall, a pretty decent release for a solid film.

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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