Every one tells a story.
Movies are not only a vital part of America’s culture – they’re part of the collective American psyche. They have helped to tell the unique American story – and the story of civilization.
Film tells the story of life – in all its grandeur and depravity.
This is why Christians need to watch movies.
Although an enthusiastic movie buff, I’ve seldom recommended a movie in this space.
I remember urging you to see The King’s Speech, the inspiring true story of how George VI overcame his stuttering on the eve of World War II. Then there was the towering depiction of America’s greatest leader in Steven Spielberg’s incomparable Lincoln.
Now comes a movie for the New Year. A film for this New Year.
Darkest Hour tells the gripping story of the pivotal weeks in May, 1940, when England turns to Winston Churchill, another ex-stutterer, to lead the nation through its greatest crisis of survival.
English actor Gary Oldman portrays the iconic British statesman with the rarest of skill. If the movie was nothing more than that – a one – man show – it alone would be worth much more than the price of your ticket.
Oldman is Churchill – in appearance, speech, action, idiosyncrasies and thought – a remarkable transformation combining award-winning makeup with a stunning performance that is unforgettable – and Oscar-worthy.
Oldman spent 200 hours in make-up and got nicotine poisoning from smoking so many Cuban cigars.
This movie, however, is much more than one man’s talent – as prodigious as that is.
Here is the story of an ancient and noble nation fighting to live. And how one man inspired its people to do just that.
We are reminded of the cataclysmic threat and deep uncertainty of that critical moment. So very much hanged in the balance. The whole world teetered on the abyss of what Churchill would describe as “a new Dark Age.”
Anxiety and dread hung over the British Isles like a thick London fog.
England needed the right leadership. In Churchill, the man and the moment met. If one believes at all in God, this was Providential.
What’s well to remember in watching Darkest Hour – and tempting to forget sitting in a comfortable twenty – first century theater – is that the outcome of all this was very much in doubt.
England and the whole world faced a very fearful future.
Hitler had invaded France, Belgium and the Netherlands. He took them all. Churchill beseeched FDR for help but the president expressed his regrets at America’s implacable neutrality and in-bred isolationism.
England stood alone.
Many British politicians, including Churchill’s predecessor Neville Chamberlain, thought England must negotiate with Hitler and, failing that, surrender. If Churchill resisted, they were prepared to declare him crazy and remove him from office.
In his excellent review of the movie in National Review, historian Victor Davis Hanson, wrote:
“Oldman reminds a generation of amnesiac global youth that nearly 80 years ago, the dogged defiance of a 66-year-old Victorian Englishman – portly and not much over 5-foot-6 – saved Western civilization from Nazi barbarism.”
For Christians, there is much value in watching Darkest Hour.
Especially heading into a New Year.
Churchill was a man of great courage. In the midst of ridicule, attack and political incredulity, he stood firm and determined. He was not swayed by political opinion but by what he knew to be right. A weaker man, under pressure, would have faltered and entered peace talks. Churchill never.
We must be people of courage. Paul the apostle told the Philippians not to be intimidated by their enemies. Just like Churchill, he wrote, “We are in this struggle together” (Philippians 1:30).
Churchill was a man of great convictions. He understood Hitler when most did not. He despised appeasement. He was prepared to fight; to lay down his own life if need be. He embraced a set of inviolate principles which he declared he would “never surrender.”
We must be men and women of convictions in the midst of moral appeasement. We must not only stand but know what to stand for – and, when required, to stand alone and to always be prepared to give an answer for the reason for our hope (I Peter 3:15).
Churchill was a man of great confidence. He believed in England. He believed in the preservation of Western civilization. He believed Hitler could be defeated. He believed in the triumph of right over might. In this supreme confidence Winston Churchill never wavered.
You and I must be people of confidence. We have every good reason for hope. We may not know what the future holds but we know a sovereign God who reigns through all the changing fortunes of men and nations. He loves us. He will protect us. He will guide us. He will provide for us.
God not only knows the future – he has ordained it. Because he is the planner, the plan is flawless. Because he never changes, neither does his love for us.
And so we must remain – with joy and hope – confident in all that is ahead.
These are the lessons we may learn from one of history’s darkest hours – and from the life, words and example of the man God used to help defeat tyranny and secure freedom.