Darkest Hour and Dunkirk: A World War II Cinematic Experience

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Darkest Hour and Dunkirk; two movies, two directors, two perspectives, both illustrating an international struggle at the start of World War II. Both films earned a slew of 2018 nominations for Best Picture.

Director Joe Wright captures a profound portrayal of Winston Churchill by Gary Oldman (a portrayal that earned him the 2018 Screen Actors Guild, British Academy of Film and Television Arts, Critics Choice, Golden Globe, and Academy Award for actor in a leading role), with an award-winning supporting cast led by BAFTA-nominee Kristin Scott Thomas in Darkest Hour. The film follows Churchill as he is elected to the office of Prime Minister, and the daunting task he and his war cabinet faced in the early stages of World War II.

Dunkirk, directed by Christopher Nolan, starring a Critics’ Choice-nominated ensemble cast that includes Fionn Whitehead, Harry Styles, Tom Hardy, and Cillian Murphy, offers a very different point of view than Darkest Hour. While both movies tell the events leading up to and including the ultimate evacuation of thousands of troops trapped on Dunkirk beach, Dunkirk takes place right on the beach, with thousands of soldiers waiting to be taken home as enemy forces surround them. This action film has very minimal talking in order to add to the suspense, and to focus on what it was really like to be there.

Although these movies have very different styles of cinematography and directing, together they tell the full story of the miracle at Dunkirk. If you pause Darkest Hour and begin watching Dunkirk, they flow continuously, from the war office in London to the beach at Dunkirk. Their contrasting perspectives is what makes them so complementary, and gives an extraordinary look at this extraordinary moment in history.

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