A vintage black car pulls up outside number 10 Downing Street, pursued by men on foot

Darkest Hour

Darkest Hour, directed by Joe Wright (Atonement, Pan), is set during the crucial early days of Winston Churchill’s first term as Prime Minister. The film depicts the simultaneous action in the halls of power on both sides of the Channel, as Britain’s armed forces looked destined for defeat in May 1940.

Led by Stephane Nazé, VFX Supervisor, a small and dedicated team at Framestore's Montréal facility collaborated closely with Wright to produce detailed and historically accurate environment augmentation and builds across 85 breathtaking shots throughout the film.

Concept Design
Effects Simulation
Creature Design/Art Department
Visual Effects Supervisor
a black and whie image of an aerial shot of winston churchill looking up and holding an umbrella

Everything is based on real references and footage. It was really important to Joe that we backed up all our work with historical research.
Stephane Nazé
VFX Supervisor

A five-week recce saw the filmmakers gain access to the private worlds behind a number of high-profile locations across London: Buckingham Palace, the Houses of Parliament, and Downing Street. ‘It was not something that you get to do everyday; it was an incredible opportunity,’ says Nazé. Lidar scans were taken of all of the buildings that had to be re-built in a photo-realistic way: ‘I quickly realised that the buildings had to be recreated in CG. We could then add the correct levels of dirt that would have existed, and tweak them structurally. Joe realised that we were approaching this very differently to other period films out there, and he became really confident in our process.’

actress lily james as elizabeth layton weating a dark green dress suit and hat looking up in front of downing street
actress lily james as elizabeth layton weating a dark green dress suit and hat looking up in front of a war torn dirty downing street

Alongside set extensions in London, the team worked on large-scale environment builds. ‘Some builds were only a few shots long, but they still had to be perfect,’ explains Nazé. Aerial shots of French battlefields and countryside were crafted, alongside recognisable locations including Calais and the cliffs of Dover. Each environment had its own separate challenges and CG asset creation process. The French battlefield sequence, for example, called for a full CG environment, CG camera, vehicles, buildings, crowd simulation, FX explosions and smoke. Extensive research was undertaken to consider not just the vehicles of the time, but the topography of the terrain and the exact timings of WW2-style explosions, which would create a shockwave just after the impact of the explosion.

aerial shot of a french battlefield surrounded by a river
aerial shot of a french battlefield surrounded by a river as a war plane flies above and bombs the site

Framestore had to work outside of its traditional film pipeline for Darkest Hour, briefing individual artists and working in a more collaborative, less structured environment; this in turn complemented the working environment with the client.  

aerial shot of soldiers sitting and standing around rubble and campfire as a commander in the centre of the image is looking up directly into the camera

Joe is unique to work with; he has real vision. He knows exactly what he wants and he has a voice. It really felt like we were all part of something.
Stephane Nazé
VFX Supervisor
war explosions and smoke


Wright infuses the drama with unquestioned energy. The elegant film’s style brilliantly marries the classical with the cutting-edge. - Variety

Gripping, touching, amusing and enlightening, Oldman's performance is the prime reason this film must be seen — but not the only one. - Empire

In fact, that is the best way to enjoy Darkest Hour, with a slab of salt and an understanding of Wright’s irrepressible stylishness as the substance itself. - Vulture 


Joe Wright
VFX Producer
Warwick Hewett
Producer (Client)
Tim Bevan
VFX Supervisor