DARKEST HOUR

Other than the irritating “Cigarettes are injurious to health” warning which stayed on the screen almost all through the movie, I had nothing to fault in this fabulous film.

So this review is actually going to be little more than a song of praise for outstanding acting, wonderful period detail and the creation of amazing tension, even though we all know the outcome.

Gary Oldman is extraordinary as Winston Churchill, brilliant orator, quick-thinking, irascible, insensitive to those around him who love and like him, and a street-fighter of note.

His outsmarting of his War Cabinet through his emotional speech to his Outer Cabinet, in which he liberally quotes people he just met on the Tube is a classic moment, demonstrating his amazing oratorical skills.  The Tube moment is, apparently, fiction.  But it makes for good cinema.

Kristin Scott Thomas as Clemmie is sublime, looks utterly fabulous in those chic 1940s clothes and brings out a more vulnerable, likeable side to Winston Churchill.  Clementine was clearly the ballast for her husband and although Ms Scott Thomas’s screen time might be limited, she fleshes out Clemmie’s character so perfectly that we feel we do indeed know her.  When she toasts her husband on becoming Prime Minister, it is a masterclass in how to deliver a rebuke with love and respect.

Lily James as Churchill’s secretary Elizabeth Layton is gorgeous., with that winning smile of hers.

Oh dear, that’s hardly a deep-insight-y kind of thing to say, but Ms James really is so lovely, and makes Ms Layton into a delightful, vital part of the PM’s life.

Samuel West, Ronald Pickup, Ben Mendelsohn – they are all perfect and visually perfect, Ben Mendelsohn as King George VI in particular is wonderful.

The atmosphere of England in the late 30s and early 40s, when it was a world of privileged white middle-aged men, with hardly any women and ne’er a non-Caucasian face visible is superbly re-created, with the scenes in the House of Commons bringing home, if ever one needed a reminder, of how Britain has evolved over the decades.

Having said that, the only false note was, for me, the presence of a black Londoner on the Tube.  I’m no historian, but I just cannot see Winston Churchill sitting and chatting like that.  Maybe I’m wrong.  That scene was just a tad too PC for me.

But that minor criticism aside, this is a stunning film, and I cannot praise it too highly.

And, as a matter of interest, is it an Indian thing (I live in New Delhi) to have that tobacco warning on the screen each time a character lights up? Which is almost all the time.  Or do other countries do this as well?

PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES

I saw “Pride & Prejudice & Zombies” last week in London with my oldest girlfriend (hope you don’t mind this monniker, Liz?).  We met at university in our first term, we both of us read English, and are both Jane Austen nuts, so this movie seemed a natural – if slightly curious – fit.

P & P & Z is, without doubt, the most bonkers movie I have ever seen, and I LOVED it.

It definitely helps to be P & P literate, for much of the joy and bonkers-ness of the film comes from the juxtaposition of the great set pieces of the novel –  the ball at Netherfield Hall, for example – with, well, zombie attacks.  I haven’t read the book on which the film was based, “Pride & Prejudice & Zombies.”

The 19th century “look” of the film is perfect.

The beauteous Lily James as Elizabeth Bennet is perfect casting.

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The gorgeous Bella Heathcote is an equally perfect Jane Bennet.

They are both perfect, in their Regency dresses, and ringlets.  And concealed weapons :

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If you know your “Pride & Prejudice” you are in for some great casting.  Douglas Booth is an absolutely dreamy Mr. Bingley.

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Jack Huston is fabulous as Mr. Wickham, the man we all love to hate.

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But the most brilliant character of all is the most unlikely Mr. Collins, hitherto the most unctuous man on the planet.  Until Matt Smith weaves his magic and makes him utterly fabulous.  Still a sycophantic creep, agreed, but such fun.

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Don’t look for too much logic in the plot.  It’s 60% the book we all know and love.  But with zombies and the undead crashing into the story with amazing amounts of gore and equal amounts of humour.

I’ve read some mutterings about the feminism or otherwise of P & P & Z.

Suffice it to say the film is a hoot, starring girls in frocks, who can all shoot to kill.  I don’t think we need to take this film too seriously as a feminist dialectic or whatever.

It’s just good fun, people.

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(Yes, you’re right.  No mention of Mr. Darcy, the historically undisputed heart-throb of this book.  Sam Riley is OK, but nothing more.  He has the voice and the smouldering.  He even has the white shirt & the pond, in a delicious nod to his more famous predecessor.  And therein lies the problem for young Mr. Riley)

Recommended, but honestly, only if you know your Jane Austen.  Otherwise lots of in-jokes will be lost.

Paid my own way & no one in Ealing knew I blogged…sigh.