Though they're set 11 years apart, the same important event occurs in both
and The Crown The Darkest Hour, a new World War II drama out on November 22: Winston Churchill becomes Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. In The Darkest Hour, the year is 1940, the U.K. is at risk of invasion by Germany, and Churchill, played by Gary Oldman, is handed a nearly impossible task. In The Crown, Churchill is significantly older, and spends the entirety of the season trying to achieve the same stamina and boundless energy he exhibited in The Darkest Hour.
“Everything exactly as it was before,” says Churchill, as he walks back into Parliament on the first episode of
The Crown. After watching The Darkest Hour, you’ll see what Churchill means by “before." The movie takes place over the first four weeks of Churchill’s term as Prime Minister. France has just fallen to the Germans, and the entire British army is trapped on the beach at Dunkirk. Given this bleak, bleak outlook, Churchill has to determine whether to submit to peace talks — or if he, and the country, are prepared to fight until the death.
The Darkest Hour can be seen as a triumphant, fast-paced WWII movie — or as a two hour-long prologue to The Crown. Your pick.
You'll understand why Churchill is greeted by a standing ovation in the first episode of The Crown. On the day of her wedding, Queen Elizabeth (Claire Foy) has to share applause with Winston Churchill, who walks down the aisle accompanied by his wife, Clementine (Harriet Walker). He's not the Prime Minister at that moment but, as Anthony Eden (Jeremy Northam) says, "He still thinks he's the father of the nation." Churchill is incredibly popular with the British people precisely because of the intrepid stance he took against the Nazis during WWII, which you'll see depicted in The Darkest Hour.
You'll finally get Churchill's competitive friendship with Anthony Eden. Did you, like me, ever watch The Crown and wonder why Anthony Eden (Jeremy Northam), the dashing foreign secretary with a mustache, was so desperate for Winston Churchill to resign? Did you wonder why, on the first episode of The Crown, Churchill says he'd considered resigning for "Anthony's sake"? And why Queen Elizabeth remarked upon Eden's years living in Churchill's shadow? In The Crown, Eden has watched Winston go through two terms as Prime Minister, and is impatiently anticipating his turn as the country's leader. Their relationship in The Darkest Hour is far less tense. Rather, Eden, played by Samuel West, supports Churchill wholeheartedly. Ah, simpler times.
You'll find out that Winston Churchill and King George's relationship was once quite tense. In the first episode of The Crown, King George VI (Jared Harris) is unabashedly pleased that Churchill been elected Prime Minister again, so their chats can continue. “Would it be terribly unconstitutional of me to say how happy I am?” he asks. Yet their relationship wasn't always so warm. In The Darkest Hour, King George VI (Daniel Mendelson) laments Neville Chamberlain's resignation, and is intimidated by Churchill's brusque, unpredictable nature. The real reason there was tension between the two men is that, years earlier, Churchill had fought to find a compromise that would keep King Edward VIII from abdicating.
You'll see how King George VI and Churchill's alliance played a role in shaping Britain's WWII policy. In The Darkest Hour, both King George and Winston Churchill are faced with big choices. George is debating whether to stay in England, or to flee to Canada with his family. Churchill, whether to engage in peace talks as his party wants, or defy the Germans. They help each other reach conclusions. Like The Crown, The Darkest Hour explores a monarchs' potential influence Parliamentary decisions, and the crucial intersection of monarchy and government that keeps Britain going.
You'll realize just how strong Elizabeth really is during her meetings with Churchill. In The Darkest Hour, Clementine concedes that her husband is not the easiest person to get along with. "I want others to love and respect you, as I do," she tells him, right before he becomes Prime Minister. Well, Queen Elizabeth finds out how difficult he can be, during their first one-on-one meeting. Elizabeth realizes that she has to out-maneuver Churchill — and so, time and time again, she negotiates so well that Churchill even tells his wife about it afterwards. Like her father, King George VI, Elizabeth ends up developing a positive relationship with the difficult but endearing PM.
Courtesy of Focus Features
Ultimately, your favorite character from both The Darkest Hour and The Crown will become clear... Quick-witted, unpredictable, and brusque, Winston Churchill made a career of intimidating and angering people. The only person who knows how to handle him was Clementine Churchill, his wife, who's played by Kristin Scott Thomas in The Darkest Hour and Harriet Walker in The Crown. Clementine has a crucial presence in Winston's life: She's tough, she's supportive, and as you'll see in The Crown, she knows how to give it right back to Winston when he's being incorrigible, as he often is.
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