The last time there was a movie year with­out a World War II-​themed film? That would be 1938 — the year before the war (at least in Europe) tech­ni­cal­ly start­ed. So dom­i­nant has WWII been as a movie top­ic, in fact, that nobody real­ly both­ers try­ing to fig­ure out what comes in sec­ond. Time trav­el? Zombies? Mobsters? Nobody cares.

This year, how­ev­er, is quick­ly shap­ing up to field the most com­pet­i­tive slate of WWII-​themed awards con­tenders since 1987 when The Last Emperor went 9 for 9 in its Best Picture Oscar run. Other WWII-​themed con­tenders that year includ­ed Louis Malle’s Au Revoir Les Enfants, John Boorman’s Hope and Glory and Steven Spielberg’s Empire of the Sun.

So far, 2017 has giv­en us two Dunkirk-​themed con­tenders — Their Finest and, of course, Christopher Nolan’s odds-​on Oscar favorite (for the moment) Dunkirk — as well as one movie about a famous author scarred by his war ser­vice (the J.D. Salinger tale Rebel in the Rye”) with anoth­er about a similarly-​tortured famous artist (the epony­mous Tom of Finland) due in October. All are expect­ed to fare well dur­ing awards season.

None, how­ev­er, have stirred quite as much awards buzz as Darkest Hour, in large part because of star Gary Oldman’s daz­zling dis­ap­pear­ance into the per­sona of Winston Churchill which has made him the strongest odds-​on favorite in the Best Actor cat­e­go­ry since Daniel Day-​Lewis’ Lincoln turn. Incredibly, such a nom­i­na­tion would only be Oldman’s sec­ond, fol­low­ing his nom­i­nat­ed 2011 per­for­mance in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. Given the famil­iar­i­ty that audi­ences sud­den­ly have with Churchill — thanks to John Lithgow’s impres­sive turn on Netflix’s The Crown and Brian Cox’s con­sid­er­ably less impres­sive, albeit earnest per­for­mance in the year’s ear­li­er Churchill — Oldman is also ben­e­fit­ting from a cer­tain amount of pre-​recognition” momen­tum of the sort typ­i­cal­ly reserved for Marvel movies.

The new trail­er doesn’t exact­ly expand on the first — nor could it, real­ly, since we already know the sto­ry — but it does sug­gest that Focus is in it to win it, and with the ensem­ble cast of Dunkirk high­ly unlike­ly to field any­one in the Best Actor cat­e­go­ry, any kind of Dunkirk sweep on Oscar night would make it eas­i­er for Oldman to sim­ply ride Nolan’s coattails.

Then again — could Darkest Hour com­pete with Dunkirk for the big­ger prize? Director Joe Wright (Atonement, Pride & Prejudice) is no slouch, and with a script by Anthony McCarten (The Theory of Everything) we could be look­ing at a WWII-​themed horse race.

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