Matthew’s Monday Movie: “Darkest Hour”

2017 was a big year for historical, period piece movies as the much anticipated film Darkest Hour was released. It follows the turbulent time at the beginning stages of World War II during Nazi Germany’s swift advance and conquest of much of Europe. Britain was left relatively isolated and with the decision to either make peace or continue to resist alone.

The film focuses on the newly elected prime minister, Winston Churchill (portrayed by Gary Oldman), as he attempts to convince the British Parliament to not sue for peace in spite of their current position in the war. We are shown the personal struggles Churchill goes through with his relationship with his wife and the heavy weight the war takes on his conscience as there was a very real threat of invasion and subjugation. As the film progresses, we are introduced to Elizabeth Layton (Lily Jordan) as Churchill’s new personal secretary who has the task of shadowing the prime minister and typing up the various letters to his allies in Parliament and his replies to various world leaders.

As the war rages on, Churchill continues to attempt to inspire the British public to courageously resist. His opponents in Parliament seek to oust him from power and elect a different Prime Minister to begin peace talks with Hitler. It soon becomes clear that, unless a miracle happens, the entire British expeditionary force in France will be destroyed as they are trapped on the beaches of Dunkirk. To the surprise of all the troops trapped at Dunkirk, they are rescued by the British Navy and thousands of volunteer flotillas. As this happens Churchill gives his famous speech “We shall fight on the beaches,” which goes on to rally Parliament in his favor and unite the British public.

Darkest Hour is a perfect companion to Christopher Nolan landmark film Dunkirk. Gary Oldman has always been one of my all-time favorite actors, and in this role he truly shines and transitions flawlessly into the elder British statesmen. Oldman’s portrayal of Churchill carries the film the entire way through.

Gary Oldman won his first Academy Award for Best Actor for this role. The film was also nominated for Best Picture and won an additional award for Best Hair and Makeup for the transition of Gary Oldman into the role of Winston Churchill.

Darkest Hour is available at the Union University Library; it is rated PG-13 for some mild language.

Moments In History: July 30th, 1945

The World War II cruiser USS Indianapolis at Pearl Harbor Hawaii

Matthew Beyer has begun a “Moments In History” series to raise awareness of important historical events. Each post will also have book recommendations about the moment in history, using our extensive history collection in the library.

 

July 30th, 1945

 Sinking of the USS Indianapolis

Today marks the 74th anniversary of the sinking of the USS Indianapolis in 1945. The ship was on a top secret mission to deliver parts that would be used to construct an armed and operational atomic bomb codenamed “Little Boy,” which was scheduled to be used on the city of Hiroshima and intended to force the Empire of Japan to surrender.  The Indianapolis completed its mission to deliver the bomb’s components; however, on her return voyage, disaster struck as she was hit by two torpedoes from a Japanese submarine. The vessel sank in a mere 12 minutes, with their frantic distress calls going unanswered.

Out of a crew of 1195 men, 300 went down immediately with the ship. The surviving crew were left stranded in the middle of the South Pacific for the next three and a half days. With many wounded, few life jackets, and fewer life boats, the surviving seamen endured unimaginable suffering. There was stifling heat during the day and hypothermic conditions at night. The crew also experienced unquenchable thirst that could lead to the congestion of delirium-inducing saltwater. The worst and most feared fate still awaited these desperate sailors: hundreds of sharks! After the third day the survivors were spotted by a friendly aircraft on patrol, and a rescue craft was sent to aid them, but the total number of those that survived out of the 900 men that went into the water was only 317.

This event would mark the single greatest loss of life by any U.S ship in the navy’s entire history. As of July 2019, there are only 12 remaining living survivors to this tragedy. So if this article finds you today, take a moment and say a prayer for those still living and for those who were lost in the horrors of World War II.

The Union University Library offers several books on this subject for those who would like to learn more:

 

 

 

 

Book Review: “Atonement” by Ian McEwan

atonement

 

*This post contains mild spoilers for Atonement

First things first: Atonement is a controversial book, but there can be no doubt that it is well-written. Ian McEwan gets inside the minds of his characters with a precision that is almost uncanny- how can an adult man so accurately capture the motivations of a dreamy (and judgemental) thirteen-year-old girl? Yet the story unravels in flowing prose that compels you to read more, and you believe the characters, as dysfunctional as they are.

To summarize without spoiling, Atonement is mostly about the connection between a  young man and woman and how it is dangerously misunderstood by a thirteen-year-old girl. This leads to a great injustice, tearing apart the family at the story’s center. McEwan also throws in a lot about WWII in the second half of the story and how simply trying to survive can alter one’s reality.

What Atonement gets right: the writing. To me, Ian McEwan’s style is like a mixture of F. Scott Fitzgerald (modern) and Jane Austen (Regency era). That’s hard to pull off, but Ian McEwan succeeds. His story is all about the characters and their inner workings, so the plot revolves around their reactions and decisions. Thus, the different events in Atonement make sense to the reader because we know what’s really going on with the characters (even if they don’t), giving us the satisfaction of being “in on it.”

What Atonement gets wrong: In the #MeToo era, it’s hard to read about a rape that essentially goes unpunished. The main witness to the crime (who is not credible at all) takes control of the situation, which leads to the actual victim essentially not even having to give a testimony. This is an obstruction of justice, and McEwan’s attitude toward the young girls involved is detached at best and coldhearted at worst. In fact, most of the adults in the book are extremely neglectful of the children they are supposed to be taking care of, and McEwan writes as if this is normal and expected (instead of, you know, wrong).

Who should read Atonement: I’d recommend this novel to anyone who enjoys books about fictional crime, in-depth character analyses, WWII, nursing, literature in general, and very complicated romances.

Who shouldn’t read Atonement: People who like books where they can escape and be happy in that escape. This book isn’t light or positive.

 

Ian McEwan’s new science fiction book, Machines Like Me, is due out this year. You can find two of McEwan’s books, including Atonement, here at the library.