Based during the blitz but portraying a delightfully different picture to the usual bombing that besieged this horrendous time in history, “Their Finest” looks at the lighter side of the darkness of the destruction of Britain by the Nazi’s, heralding the efforts of a few to raise the spirits of the many through film, but did this making of movies movie muster our mood magnificently enough to rate it highly or did this second world war screenplay sink like a shot down spitfire?
Having been born in the post baby booming period of the late sixties, we cannot lay any sort of claim on the years that encompassed and were then affected by the second world war, one that, without doubt, was THE most destructive of the two, with a reported 60 to 80 million deaths, the landscape of London & cities across Britain as well as those across Germany, blasted by bombing and so changed forever, while the dropping of the atomic bomb by the American’s heralded a frighteningly tense cold war conflict lasting decades and, with the current Trump regime & destabilised Middle East & Asia, looks like rearing its ugly head. So, war in one form or another has never been out of our lives, yet we cannot imagine what those that lived through the blitz had to cope with and while much of this been documented in film, whether it be the battle in above Blighty or on the ground; what the likes of WW2 classics “The Dam Busters”, “Reach For The Sky” & the aptly named “Battle Of Britain” have in common, is focussing on the RAF boys in blue, while many others of their ilk also feature the armed forces & conflicts, some honing in life in & around the carnage the blitz caused, “Hope & Glory” however, spinning a lighter side to the tough times Londoner’s endured and thus refreshingly different to the usual style of screenplays of this subject. And in “Their Finest” we find another fantastic film that spins the archetypal second world war storyline, in this case, the tale of a British Ministry of Information team making a morale boosting film about the hero’s, well moreover the heroines on a particular boat’s part in the evacuation of Dunkirk, although this is only part of the picture as the interwoven characters, some who lead totally unrelated lives, come together tremendously, the mix of drama, historical content, stunning scenery & effects, delightful doses of comedy and a cast to match all these elements, means this majestic motion picture not only lives up to the terrific trailer and the over average critical acclaim, but vindicates the claim that “Their Finest” is one of the best movies of the year.
But why did it meet those lofty expectations and go down so well with both us & industry critics in general? Well, despite the promotional posters flaunting the comedy & wit in “Their Finest”, there is much more to this movie than these flyers suggest, as while co lead Bill Nighy delivers distinguished dollops of comedic content, he also displays his acting flair as well as his singing talent, the depth of the cast another reason why this film rates so highly in our estimation. With Richard E Grant perfectly portraying the stiff upper lipped Ministry of Information man, Roger Swain, Jeremy Irons as the stateman like Secretary of War, Jack Huston as the playboy artist who, due to injury, has avoided call up, then the endearing Gemma Arterton, the fabulous female lead whose Welsh accent is utterly believable, but mostly there is the smouldering Sam Claffin who pitches the polar character traits of film writer Buckley that range from patronising condescendence to charming romanticism and from cold calculated criticism to soft fond feeling, is utterly outstanding. Indeed, we would go as far to say that it is Claffin’s performance that makes this movie, while other notable showings include Jake Lacy as the corny but hugely handsome American war hero, drafted in by Irons’ character to beef up the US support for the motion picture in the making throughout the plot, “The Nancy Sterling”, and from Helen McCrory as the sister to Nighy’s actor character Ambrose Hillard’s agent who gets killed in an air raid, she perhaps having the funniest line in the film when she utters, in her native tongue, “…stop licking your balls in public…” to the brilliant bull terrier dog that features. But to be honest, while we can’t resist gushing over Claffin in what, for us, is his most phenomenal motion picture to date, knocking spots off his Finnick Odair in The Hunger Games franchise, it’s the whole ensemble in “Their Finest” together with the mix of these decidedly different actors come characters that is as much a triumph as anything else and what elevates this from the ordinary to the excellent.
However, ultimate magic for us is that this is movie within the making of a movie, that the portrayal of life both in front & behind the camera in the midst of the most callous & colossal worldwide conflict, is both engaging and entertaining, clever snippets such as the transposing of a dummy Dunkirk scene onto the Devon coast which, until Ambrose steps through it, looks utterly believable, is just one of a bucket load of brilliant snippets & scenes that are entirely engrossing. Then there is the obvious romantic interest that lead characters Catrin Cole & Tom Buckley have for each other, despite not showing it on the surface, this drawing us in deliciously to the point that we erupted in tears when they finally declared their love, only to be dashed moments later when Tom was killed on “The Nancy Sterling” film set, adding a further cleverly tragic layer to the already harrowing period in history that was the blitz & everything that came with it. So, if we were to use one word to sum up “Their Finest”, it would be clever, well that added on the end of complicatedly, as the complex nature of this cinematic colossus through its strong storyline that is at no point stilted, rather flows like the smoothest of streams, is simply scintillating. That said, this film is no “Denial”, “Fences”, “Loving” or “Moonlight”, all which are in a different league, we do draw comparisons with “Hidden Figures” which, while in a uncomparable historical period, shares enthrallingly entertaining similarities with “Their Finest”, albeit austerely American to its brilliant British affair counterpart. But in concluding on its cleverness, perhaps this fabulous film’s most towering triumph, is its timing, not only in the film itself, but it’s release on the cinema circuit which coincides with a BFI season called “Girls Like Us” which documents how much wartime movie making & screening thrusted the focus more onto the work of females on the home front, something which “Their Finest” not only highlights but eventually celebrates, makes this particular motion picture both profoundly prominent & relevant to the time within it is set and the times we are living in now, all meaning that we urge you to go watch this superbly successful screenplay sooner rather than later. (DISCO MATT)