Gary Oldman is no stranger to dressing up in weird make-up to play a character. I mean just look at him in “Dracula.” Fortunately, his Oscar for Best Leading Actor was awarded for his adaptability in a much better movie with a much better character.
Before I watched this movie, I knew less about Winston Churchill than I did about Tonya Harding. I knew Churchill was a strong, brave, magnificent leader who was raised by his nanny since his parents paid little attention to him and was Great Britain’s prime minister during World War II. I also knew that he was known for his drinking as well as his razor sharp wit and his sarcastic burns against Lady Astor, but that was about it.
Watching this movie let me in on a great amount of history. Winston Churchill became the prime minister at a stormy time in British politics and in the world. The Nazis had conquered much of Europe and were poised to invade Belgium. Most of Parliament blamed their progress on Prime Minister Chamberlain’s incompetence and formed coalitions between parties to make him step down. So Churchill not only had to lead a nation through one of the darkest times in our planet’s history, he also had to fight a Parliament that was not on his side.
Portraying this man would be a mighty task for anyone. Making someone so iconic also multidimensional would be a herculean feat.
With that said, Oldman portrays Churchill perfectly. From the first scene, his look, his mannerisms, his sarcastic remarks, his speech patterns, and his odd quirks made me feel like I was watching Churchill the person. It also helped that the hair and makeup prosthetics were so well-done that I could barely recognize Oldman at all. I swear they were the best I’d ever seen.
All that is important because Churchill is so often placed on a pedestal as a hero that the world often forgets he was also human. This movie allows us to see the many sides to Churchill.
We see him as a strategist who bypasses his colleagues to find solutions to problems they don’t see. We see him as a husband who cares deeply for his wife and tries his best to make her happy. We see him as a leader who lies to the people so they can sleep at night thinking they’re safe. We see him as an employer who can laugh at himself and cares about how his employees feel. We see him as a military leader who’s desperate to protect his country, doesn’t have all the answers, and is broken-hearted when he can’t save everyone.
You get to know him so completely that even if you don’t agree with his every decision it’s impossible not to admire him. You see him as the struggling human he is instead of just an icon. It is for that reason Gary Oldman and his hair and makeup team deserve their Oscars.