December 28th, 2017

“Darkest Hour”

I haven’t seen the new Churchill movie, although I plan to. Maybe I’ll wait till it’s released on video, but it sounds like a good one (with a few reservations).

We’ve got two reviews to guide you on your way. First, there’s here’s our very own “Cornhead,” (David Begley).

Next, we have Victor Davis Hanson.

I’m a big Churchill buff, as you can see if you can decipher the bottom book title in my masthead photo. So any departure from reality—any depiction of Churchill as doubtful and wavering where he was resolute and firm—ruffles my feathers. Cornhead makes the point that it was done in the movie for dramatic effect, and I have little doubt it works in that sense. But to me the facts are plenty dramatic enough, and preferable. If you’re going to make a movie about history, stick to history.

But it sounds like that’s a small part of the movie, and the rest is excellent.

16 Responses to ““Darkest Hour””

  1. Artfldgr Says:

    NOT (cough!) their finest hour: Biopic of cigar-chomping Churchill carries ludicrous health warning… on danger of secondhand smoke

    The movie is already out in the US and will be released in Britain next month
    Churchill is rarely seen without a cigar in the film, set in 1940
    Leading historians ridiculed the warning saying ‘it only adds to the temptation

    Yet the makers of a new biopic of the wartime leader have still deemed it necessary to warn film-goers that ‘the depictions of tobacco smoking are based solely on artistic consideration’.

    The ludicrous health alert comes in the final credits of Darkest Hour, in which Gary Oldman has been acclaimed by critics for his performance as the former Prime Minister.

    [History as it should have been if the world was right, without explaining how a right world would have the war in it. But this is why modern women despite all the films movies books and such, claim things that have no basis… twisted history for twisted people so that they do not know that decisive people that act alone and bear responsibility can even exist, or else one of them may act without checking with others (that check on them)]

  2. Geoffrey Britain Says:

    Hanson points out that even after Dunkirk, Chamberlain and others of like mind, sought to appease Hitler and, had Hitler been willing to ‘settle’ for continental Europe… they were willing to abandon it. They thought Churchill deluded to think that England could withstand the Nazi juggernaught.

    Nothing is as disturbing to the moral coward as unflinching, resolute bravery.

    Perhaps the writers and director subconsciously sensed that today’s liberal audiences are uncomfortable with the prospect of a fight to the death with evil?

    North Korea and Iran come to mind and liberal assertions that we will simply have to accept as unavoidable, a future where ‘religious’ fanatics and monstrous tyrants have nuclear ICBMs…

  3. expat Says:

    Powerline has a good list of books on Churchill and points out some different takes on Churchill. It’s a good read, although the thousands of pages of Churchill books is overwhelming. I’ll have to choose a few to add to my own Churchill bookshelf.

    One of my best trips to England included the War Cabinet Rooms, Blenheim, and Chartwell. It was a fascinating time.

  4. J.J. Says:

    I am most of the way through the book. I had never realized until reading it, that Churchill was having to juggle the desires of Chamberlain and Halifax as they made plans while the BEF was desperately trying to evacuate from France. Churchill had to keep them mollified – if he ignored them, they would resign and he would lose his job as Prime Minister. So, he strung them along, seeming agreeable to their peace plans, but then arguing that they had to make plans to fight. It was quite a balancing act that was no longer needed after his magnificent “we will fight them on the sea, in the air, on the beaches, etc.” speech. That speech mobilized the UK for the war and both Chamberlain and Halifax recognized that die was cast.

    Today many people don’t recognize how tenuous the UK’s situation was at that time. It appeared only a matter of time before the Germans would be marching in the streets of London. Both Chamberlain and Halifax, along with their supporters, believed all was lost and that the only rational thing was to sue for a peace deal. They hoped to buy continuing sovereignty by offering Hitler their African colonies as well as Italian control of Gibraltar and Malta. They believed Herr Hitler was a reasonable man who would accept the deal. Churchill was convinced that nothing would appease Hitler’s appetite for conquest. Fortunately for the free world Churchill was right and the U.S. and UK were able to prevail. It could have turned out much differently. That was definitely a hinge point in history.

  5. Frederick Says:

    Roy Jenkins’ biography is not to be missed, but even better is to read Churchill instead of read about him. I never get tired of “My Ealry Life”, and the closing sentence while intended to be ironic I think one can argue it did indeed come true.

    His history of WWII should be read along some other references or you’ll miss out on a lot of the war, including the Holocaust.

  6. Cornhead Says:

    Please see the movie! Not to be missed.

  7. Matthew Says:

    I liked the movie, but the scene people complain about was kind of cheesy.

  8. Brian Swisher Says:

    You’ve got to remember, Churchill suffered from clinical depression, which he called his “black dog”. As another sufferer of same, I would find a scene of him going through this issue entirely in character, complete with self-medication. I’ll let you know when I see the movie.

  9. Shepherd Says:

    It’s easy to lose sight of the main motivations of men like Chamberlain—avoiding a repeat of the horrors of the First War, which ultimately cost the UK its empire and its status as a Great Power. It was a wound they never recovered from. And many of the wars fought before then in Europe were cabinet wars—most of the casualties from disease while armies camped and ministers negotiated over minor territory exchanges. I think they were desperately trying to hold on to the hope that a little territory in Poland or the Sudetenland would keep Britain from sacrificing another generation. They were wrong, but I don’t think they did it from a place of cowardice or evil.

    I hadn’t heard about Gibraltar. That seems odd, because giving up Gibraltar would have meant the loss of the Suez and then India, and the Brits went to great lengths to hold on yo India.

  10. Shepherd Says:

    PS Churchill, like many brilliant people, wasn’t just depressed but also drank a lot. Gives me a happy excuse for all the Martinis I enjoy, so cheers to him.

  11. neo-neocon Says:


    Churchill nursed a drink almost constantly, but apparently the drinks were watered down. See this, for example. I’ve read similar things elsewhere.

  12. John F. MacMichael Says:

    For anyone interested in some good recent books on the history that this movie is based on, I would recommend the following:

    By Michael Korda:

    “Alone: Britain, Churchill and Dunkirk: defeat into victory.” 2017.

    “With Wings Like Eagles: a history of the Battle of Britain.” 2009.

    By Lynne Olson:

    “Troublesome Young Men: the rebels who brought Churchill to power and helped save England.” 2007.

    Anyone studying the Battle of Britain must conclude that it was, as the Duke of Wellington said of the Battle of Waterloo, “A damn near-run thing!”.

  13. George Says:

    Michael Gerson now seems to think we’re the ones who’ll be fighting on the beaches, clearly against an internal foe. But when he speaks of “the arrival of leadership that survives by feeding resentment, hatred and disorienting flux” he could just as well be talking about the previous president as he is about the current one.

  14. Gordon Says:

    It does help to understand a few things which led to that finest hour:

    1. Hitler was not bent on world conquest. He did not want to fight France and England. His immediate goals were to recover what he considered to be German territory stripped after WWI.

    2. Chamberlain made a huge mistake early in 1939 when he guaranteed to defend Poland. There was no way to accomplish this. It also gave the Polish prime minister the ability to thumb his nose at Hitler, when it might have been prudent to accommodate.

    3. Hitler was stunned when the UK declared war over Poland.

    4. No one, including the German general staff, thought Germany could defeat France and the BEF. Hitler’s plan was bold and daring. It had to be. France alone had a much more powerful army. When the plan worked, and very quickly, everyone was stunned, Hitler included.

    5. Even after Dunkirk, Hitler wanted accommodation with the UK. He had no plan for invading, because he never expected to need to.

    6. No one knew in 1940 what a horror house occupied Europe would become.

  15. neo-neocon Says:


    Nice try at Hitler revisionism. His “immediate goals” were a cover for his true (long-range) goals, which were to conquer all of Europe and kill a great many of its inhabitants, particularly the Jews but also the Poles and many others.

    This is what he had in mind for Poland, for example. But it was only a part of his plan for Europe. The only real question is whether he just wanted to conquer Europe or whether he would have liked to expand it to the world.

    “No one knew”—except those who were paying any attention at all. For example, those who had read Mein Kampf would know quite a bit:

    In Mein Kampf, Hitler states: “…it [Nazi philosophy] by no means believes in an equality of races, but along with their difference it recognizes their higher or lesser value and feels itself obligated to promote the victory of the better and stronger, and demand the subordination of the inferior and weaker in accordance with the eternal will that dominates this universe.”…

    Hitler goes on to say that subjugated peoples actually benefit by being conquered because they come in contact with and learn from the superior Aryans. However, he adds they benefit only as long as the Aryan remains the absolute master and doesn’t mingle or inter-marry with inferior conquered peoples.

    But it is the Jews, Hitler says, who are engaged in a conspiracy to keep this master race from assuming its rightful position as rulers of the world, by tainting its racial and cultural purity and even inventing forms of government in which the Aryan comes to believe in equality and fails to recognize his racial superiority.

    “The mightiest counterpart to the Aryan is represented by the Jew.”

    Hitler describes the struggle for world domination as an ongoing racial, cultural, and political battle between Aryans and Jews. He outlines his thoughts in detail, accusing the Jews of conducting an international conspiracy to control world finances, controlling the press, inventing liberal democracy as well as Marxism, promoting prostitution and vice, and using culture to spread disharmony.

    Throughout Mein Kampf, Hitler refers to Jews as parasites, liars, dirty, crafty, sly, wily, clever, without any true culture, a sponger, a middleman, a maggot, eternal blood suckers, repulsive, unscrupulous, monsters, foreign, menace, bloodthirsty, avaricious, the destroyer of Aryan humanity, and the mortal enemy of Aryan humanity…

    Mein Kampf also provides an explanation for the military conquests later attempted by Hitler and the Germans. Hitler states that since the Aryans are the master race, they are entitled simply by that fact to acquire more land for themselves. This Lebensraum, or living space, will be acquired by force, Hitler says, and includes the lands to the east of Germany, namely Russia. That land would be used to cultivate food and to provide room for the expanding Aryan population at the expense of the Slavic peoples, who were to be removed, eliminated, or enslaved.

    But in order to achieve this, Hitler states, Germany must first defeat its old enemy France, to avenge the German defeat of World War I and to secure the western border. Hitler bitterly recalls the end of the First World War, saying the German Army was denied its chance for victory on the battlefield by political treachery at home. In the second volume of Mein Kampf he attaches most of the blame to Jewish conspirators in a highly menacing and ever more threatening tone.

    Published in 1925.

  16. Frog Says:

    See National Review:
    and its quick notes of making the greatest ambiguous and indecisive.

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Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.

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