[OT] Darkest Hour


If you’re going to make a movie about Winston Churchill, and you want to fictionalize and trivialize the most important decision he made in his life, one of the pivotal decisions of the twentieth century… then just call the movie fiction, rename the character Wallace Birchill, and have at it.

(It’s safe to assume that the comments section will contain spoilers for the film, if that’s relevant in this case; I always err on the side of extreme caution)


  1. Haven’t seen it, I’m guessing they sanitized the decision to let the English town get bombed so the Germans wouldn’t know we’d cracked Enigma? I think I’ll go watch that Benedict Cumberbatch version of events instead, then.

  2. You mean he didn’t take a ride in a fully integrated tube car and poll the occupants about what to do about Hitler?

  3. So, since we’ve established that the comments section is a place for spoilers, and I have no plan to see the movie: what important decision did the movie fictionalize and trivialize.

    Padarig: it’s not clear that that happened. So while it’s possible it happened, we also don’t know enough to be clear that the movie was sanitizing it, rather than taking a different educated guess how it happened. ( http://theweek.com/articles/469742/history-detective-did-churchill-sacrifice-city-protect-secret .)

  4. larK, everybody knows he made the decision he did because his grandson returned to him from 2017, wearing a Nazi uniform, and said “Grandpapa, please, don’t do this!”

  5. James, how could Churchill’s decision to invade Turkey be the most important one of his career when a) it failed; and b) that failure did not affect the resolution of the War?

    Of course I was referring to the decision NOT to pursue peace talks (limited surrender) with Hitler, a decision that affected the course of history and probably did NOT result from a chance meeting with six random characters out of Central Casting.

  6. “James, how could Churchill’s decision to invade Turkey be the most important one of his career when…:

    The decision to invade Turkey was the most important one of his career because it had effects upon the entire rest of his career.

    Deciding to fight the fascists? That’s an EASY decision. At least, it SHOULD be. (Yes, I’m aware the American public wavered on the point rather a bit longer than should have been necessary, from 1939 to 1941.)

  7. >>and probably did NOT result from a chance meeting with six random characters
    >>out of Central Casting.

    Well now I’m intrigued for an entirely different reason, but I shall wait until I can hopefully watch it for free,

  8. I just bought the book the film was based on, which is a non-fiction work that presumably discusses the process by which Churchill actually made this decision.

    I’d hate to think the entire war effort, which involved between 50 million and 80 million deaths, hinged on Churchill getting caught in traffic, impulsively taking his first-ever Underground ride, and striking up a discussion with a 10-year-old girl, a secretary, a Cicero-quoting black man…

    Can’t believe there wasn’t a talking animal in the mix.

  9. James, deciding to fight the Nazis should indeed be an easy decision; but Britain was in what seemed to be a lose-lose situation: face seemingly certain destruction, or negotiate a surrender. How Churchill made that decision should have been the essence of the film.

    But the screenwriter gave us a complete cheat.

  10. Bill, IIRC, the conventional wisdom in the U.S. at the time was that Britain was obviously going to surrender. Because if France fell in just 1-2 months, it was clear that Britain was going to have no chance at all.

    U.S. experts didn’t reckon on how convincing that 10-year old girl would be, I guess.

  11. Although essentially all the specifics of Darkest Hour, and especially its climax, are fictional, it’s still a work of verified scholarship compared to the fraud that is The Imitation Game.

  12. Timely to read Dunkirk mentioned here. Just last night I watched the PBS ‘NOVA” program “Great Escape at Dunkirk”. It was fascinating.

  13. Bill, there is no reason to assume that all big political and military decisions are based on a careful analysis of the situation and available facts. The US invasion of Iraq would be a prime example of the opposite.

    ‘Muddle is often a better explanation for the actions of any government than
    finely balanced policy making.’ — Andrew Wood, former British ambassador to Russia

  14. I haven’t see this film – BUT – I wonder if it’s possible you actually mean the critically-panned “Churchill” (which came out in June) vs. the comparatively well-reviewed “Darkest Hour” (which came out in November) .

  15. Never saw Churchill. This was Darkest Hour.

    Which is, overall, a very good film — which was sabotaged at the end by an outrageous example of scriptwriter laziness.

    This certainly isn’t the first good film ever to be victimized by a deus ex machina resolution.

  16. Soup Dragon, certainly not all such decisions are based on a careful analysis of the situation and available facts: but in this case, the decision was not made because Churchill impulsively took a ride on the Underground. How Churchill made this decision was the very point of the movie.

    I’m fine with historical films taking the occasional liberty — having Neville Chamberlain know he was dying when in fact he did not was a big liberty — but there are some lines too big to cross.

    My opinion, anyway.

  17. Don’t all based-on-a-true-biography movies take horrible liberties? Look at “Amadeus” for instance.

  18. I’m not sure Amadeus is the best example, though, since that was a blatantly surrealistic play (similarly, Alexander Hamilton rarely dabbled in hip-hop).

    I think what annoyed me here is that they were making a serious biographical drama, the sort of thing that gets nominated for the Bast Picture Oscar, and then they replaced the most important sequence with this bit of insultingly lazy writing.

    I don’t want to see a Hamlet remake where a 10-year-old girl suddenly appears and tells him what to do about his uncle.

  19. “I don’t want to see a Hamlet remake where a 10-year-old girl suddenly appears and tells him what to do about his uncle.”

    So, if absolutely HAS to be a ghost that gives Hamlet the crucial advice, why not the ghost of a 10-year-old girl? I mean, yeah, the second Harry Potter movie did that, but they don’t have a copyright on it.

  20. Wouldn’t a real ten-year-old girl be all about negotiated peace anyway? Tell her she can either choke on her own dying blood, or talk about it to Hitler’s BFF who’ll then talk to Hitler, and which would she choose, especially once she found out that Hitler loves puppies? She’s still too young (especially in 1940) for the mean girls thing — and anyway, Hitler is the mean girl, England’s the starry-eyed naive one, at least up till now, who can’t even rely on her best friend Roosevelt to back her up…

  21. The problem is generally the complete truth is lacking in the drama as they need to make the story “better”.

    Our reenacting unit has been dealing with fall out from “Turn” which was so far from the truth (and the non-fiction book “Turn” that it was taken from) that we have spent a lot of time in the last few years correcting people’s ideas that they picked up from it. The descendant family of one of the main female characters was trying to find out what they could do to stop how she was being portrayed as she did not have an affair with a man – who by the way was not married to the woman he was shown as being married to. Events are shown as taking place in a township east of where they did – British army was camped and headquartered in Huntington, not Setauket (well it means a lot to the people of Huntington which was the longest continually occupied community in the colonies/states of the entire war). A significant character who was occupying in a home in Oyster Bay in Nassau County was shown to be a buffoon and occupying in a home in, yes, Setauket in Suffolk County and his famous Valentine (which still exists) which was written to the daughter in the Oyster Bay home, was ripped up in the show by his fellow officers – and he was a heck of a lot better looking than he is portrayed.

    Basically, fictionalized “true” stories should be taken with more than a grain of salt.

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