2017 Awards Profile: Joe Wright’s ‘Darkest Hour’ From Focus Features

Welcome to the 2017 Awards Profile series, where we talk about high- and low-profile films coming to a theater near you at some point this year. We will analyze the potential for these films to be players for the Academy Awards, and while many of these have the potential to be recognized, many will not, either by quality or being pushed back to the following year. For the next few weeks, we will bring you a film every Monday and Wednesday to talk about their potential. If you have a suggestion, please include it in the comments below. If you missed a film, click on the tag or category Awards Profile.

FILM: “Darkest Hour”
PRODUCERS: Tim Bevan, Lisa Bruce, Eric Fellner, Anthony McCarten, Douglas Urbanski
DISTRIBUTOR: Focus Features

DIRECTOR: Joe Wright
WRITER: Anthony McCarten

CAST: Gary Oldman, John Hurt, Kristin Scott Thomas, Ben Mendelsohn, Lily James, Stephen Dillane

SYNOPSIS (via iMDB): Winston Churchill leads a charge against Adolf Hitler’s army in the early days of World War II.

WHY IT MIGHT SUCCEED: The Oscar crowd is always up for a great biopic about a historical figure. Joe Wright has been a director who has quietly danced with the prospect of an Oscar since his debut in 2005 for “Pride and Prejudice,” which itself pulled in four nominations. His follow-up, “Atonement,” garnered seven nominations including Best Picture. Though Wright himself wasn’t nominated, the film won prizes at the Golden Globes and BAFTA for Best Picture and Best Film, respectively. Again here, Wright has assembled an impressive team, which includes many of his “regulars.” He’s tapped Oscar-winning composer Dario Marianelli, the talented DP Bruno Delbonnel, Production Designer Sarah Greenwood and Oscar winner Jacqueline Durran (“Anna Karenina”).

The subject matter – which dives into the life of former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom during World War II, Winston Churchill – will be very appetizing to Academy members. Academy Award nominee Gary Oldman has been tapped for the lead role, and by the first official image alone, the blogosphere is ready to anoint him. With just one nomination to his credit – for his role in the magnetic “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy” from Tomas Alfredson – it’s been agreed upon in many circles that Oldman has not received the recognition he’s due. His career has been littered with terrific performances in films like “The Contender,” “Leon: The Professional” and “Dracula.”

The narrative already seems prewritten for him to win this year pending any “undeniable” performance that comes through. The same logic can be applied to many of his supporting cast including Kristin Scott Thomas, only a one-trick pony for her work in “The English Patient” over 20 years ago. It should also be mentioned that the recently departed John Hurt could also find some wiggle room if notices start trickling in.

Writer Anthony McCarten, who penned “The Theory of Everything,” may also be able to muster up a powerful story with emotion and dramatic heft.

Pair all this with distributor Focus Features, who has been able to do some outstanding things with their actors over the past few years, including: Matthew McConaughey (“Dallas Buyers Club”), Alicia Vikander (“The Danish Girl”), Eddie Redmayne (“The Theory of Everything”), and most recent nominees Ruth Negga (“Loving”) and Michael Shannon (“Nocturnal Animals”), who both defied odds for their mentions.

WHY IT MIGHT NOT SUCCEED: With every success director Joe Wright has had in his repertoire, there are films like “The Soloist” and “Pan” to give us reservations. And despite the four nominations for “Anna Karenina,” it was mostly dismissed for its narrative and directorial achievements and was deemed just a “tech player” by mid-season.

Just because Gary Oldman looks amazing in the part doesn’t necessarily mean that he’ll live up to it, or that the Academy will respond to it. Not everything is always a “slam dunk.”

Looking at Focus Features’ upcoming slate, they have much promise with films like “The Beguiled” from Sofia Coppola, “The Book of Henry” from Colin Trevorrow, “Victoria and Abdul” from Stephen Frears, and the yet-to-be-titled fashion film project from Paul Thomas Anderson. If they sniff out a better chance for recognition with any of those films, they can easily shift focus. Or, they could also find themselves in a juggling situation, which is always risky. Just ask Paramount Pictures about last year.

POTENTIAL OSCAR CATEGORIES IN PLAY:

  • Motion Picture – Tim Bevan, Lisa Bruce, Eric Fellner, Anthony McCarten, Douglas Urbanski
  • Director – Joe Wright
  • Actor in a Leading Role – Gary Oldman
  • Actor in a Supporting Role – John Hurt, Ben Mendelsohn
  • Actress in a Supporting Role – Kristin Scott Thomas
  • Original Screenplay – Anthony McCarten
  • Production Design – Sarah Greenwood
  • Cinematography – Bruno Delbonnel
  • Costume Design – Jacqueline Durran
  • Film Editing – Valerio Bonelli
  • Makeup and Hairstyling
  • Achievement in Sound Mixing
  • Achievement in Sound Editing
  • Original Score – Dario Marianelli

Share your thoughts in the comments or on the message forums!

Check out the first official set of
Year-In-Advance Oscar Predictions
and see where “Darkest Hour ranks!

About Clayton Davis

Clayton Davis is the esteemed Editor and Owner of AwardsCircuit.com. Born in Bronx, NY to a Puerto Rican mother and Black father, he’s been criticizing film and television for over a decade. Clayton is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association where he votes and attends the kick off to the awards season, the Critics Choice Awards. He’s also an active member of New York Film Critics Online, International Press Academy, Black Reel Awards, and the Broadcast Television Journalists Association. Clayton has been quoted and appeared in various outlets that include The New York Times, CNN.com, Variety, Deadline, Los Angeles Times, Bloomberg Television, AOL, Huffington Post, Bloomberg Radio, The Wrap, Slash Film, and the Hollywood Reporter.
  • Julie

    Looks great.

  • Reece

    ugh, I hate these dry, awards-bait WW2 movies. They’re just….boring as hell, goddamn.. We don’t need these, who are they even made for!?

    • People who love WW2, awards-bait movies.

      • Reece

        lmao I was so pissed of that day, I don’t even mind does movies tbh. just a bad mood comment

    • Peter Templeman

      Winston Churchill is such an iconic character, who wouldn’t want to see a film about him?

  • Tee

    I think this film will be a huge player for nominations, but wins could be troublesome.

    Safe Bets:
    Best Picture
    Gary Oldman for Best Actor
    John Hurt for Best Supporting Actor
    Best Makeup & Hairstyling

    Possible:
    Joe Wright for Best Director
    Best Original Screenplay
    Kristen Scott Thomas for Best Supporting Actress
    Best Editing

    Long-shots:
    Best Cinematography, Sound Mixing, and Sound Editing (if atmosphere based on Churchill’s involvement in war)
    Best Production Design (if atmosphere based on Churchill’s life as a person)

  • Todd

    Could you do a profile for the greatest showman and beauty and the beast

    • Definitely for “The Greatest Showman.”

      We already have a review for “Beauty and the Beast” on the site and will likely not do that since we know how it could fair.

      • Todd

        Also could you do one for Victoria and abdul as well

  • Christian Thompson

    Great article! I’d love to see one for Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool.

  • Flipnote87

    Will there be a profile for Molly’s Game?

    • Joey Magidson

      Yes. Working on one right now.

  • Ayshon

    Will there be a profile for Call Me By Your Name?