Gary Oldman’s commanding performance as Winston Churchill made the World War II-era drama Darkest Hour one of the buzziest titles at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival. Through a combination of immersive prosthetics and good old-fashioned acting, the actor transforms himself into England’s wartime prime minister who carries himself with confidence even when his nation is facing one of the gravest moments in its history. Even the most decisive leaders can experience periods of self-doubt, though. This exclusive clip from Darkest Hour — which opens in limited release on Nov. 22 and expands to more theaters in December — presents Churchill at a particularly vulnerable moment. Having assembled his cabinet to discuss war strategy, he faces an open revolt from at least one member, Foreign Secretary Lord Halifax (Stephen Dillane), who accuses Churchill of putting his own interests ahead of the British people. “There’s nothing inglorious in trying to shorten a war that we are clearly losing,” Halifax argues.
Churchill attempts to respond, but as the foreign secretary presses his point, the prime minister lapses into an uncharacteristic silence. When he speaks again, there’s an aggravated bluster to his voice that suggests he’s trying to convince himself as much as his audience. “How many more dictators most be wooed, appeased… before we learn you cannot reason with a tiger when your head is in its mouth,” he exclaims. In real life, of course, Churchill stayed the course and the Allies defeated the Axis powers after a long, hard-fought conflict. But Oldman’s brilliant (and likely Oscar-bound) portrayal depicts how even the boldest of leaders can experience their own personal darkest hours.
Darkest Hour opens in limited release on Nov. 22 and will be in theaters everywhere on Dec. 22.
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