Darkest Hour (PG) ★★★★✩
PUT your money on Gary Oldman to score an Oscar to add to his Golden Globe for this uneven Dunkirk drama — though you’d never guess it was him. Kazuhiro Tsuji’s miraculous prosthetics mean Oldman is unrecognisable as an elderly Winston Churchill, who has whisky for breakfast, conducts important business from the loo, dictates to his secretary (Lily James) from his bath, is supported by wife Clementine (Kristin Scott Thomas) and has a habit of exposing himself (back then endearingly eccentric, nowadays workplace abuse).
Director Joe (Atonement) Wright exhibits his trademark flashes of visual aplomb and captures the peril of Nazi invasion with thrilling immediacy, despite being almost entirely confined to the claustrophobic corridors of power. But this is Oldman’s showcase and he deserves every award going to shove inside it.
A masterpiece of jet-black humour
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (15) ★★★★★
This dark, twisted, at times cartoonish tragicomedy cleaned up at Sunday’s Golden Globes and casts best actress winner Frances McDormand (in her finest role since Fargo) as a furious mother whose teenage daughter was raped and burnt alive.
She erects three billboards (outside Ebbing, Missouri — you get the drift) accusing Woody Harrelson’s police chief of doing zip to catch the killer. Doesn’t sound LOL, right? But it is. By turns comic and corrosively bitter, the showboating script and self-conscious dialogue are imbued with emotional depth by some wonderful performances, not just from Harrelson and McDormand but also from Sam Rockwell, Peter Dinklage and rising star Lucas Hedges.
Strong, excitingly unpredictable stuff, this is a fabulously unforgettable genre cocktail from Martin (In Bruges) McDonagh.
Touching on genius
Eric Clapton: Life In 12 Bars (15) ★★★✩✩
If you don’t already consider ‘Clapton is God’, as the famous graffiti put it, then you’ll be unconverted by this oddly distancing rock doc. It’s strong on the rock’n’roll side of things, illuminating the introverted English guitarist’s blues roots as well as touching on his maternal issues. Then, midway through, it suddenly plunges into his 1970s sex-and-drugs hell before a sketchy finale that covers the rest of his still flourishing career. Diverting enough, it nonetheless fails to fully delve into its subject.