The first of two Dunkirk related films to be released this year, Their Finest (adapted from the 2009 novel Their Finest Hour and a Half) is definitely one of those stereotypical period pieces that we British seem to annoyingly excel at.
To be fair though, I was always going to have a soft spot for a film about screenwriting 🙂 But how much does it offer for the average man on the street?
Desperate to appeal to the working women of the UK during World War II, the Ministry of Information plan to create a piece of cinematic propaganda specifically designed to engage said audience.
Needing someone to write “the slop” (female dialogue), Tom Buckley (Sam Claflin) decides to hire Catrin Cole (Gemma Arterton) to help out. With has-been actor Ambrose Hilliard (Bill Nighy) in tow, they must now create a morale boosting story about the evacuation from Dunkirk.
“Harmless” is ultimately the number one word that comes to mind when trying to categorise Their Finest. With nothing particularly original or offensive, it’s arguably the cinematic equivalent of comfort food. But, like the famed Big Mac, that doesn’t mean there isn’t a little something to enjoy.
Such enjoyment predominately comes from the strength of the cast. Gemma Arterton plays a likable and engaging woman trying to face down the same challenges that have undoubtedly been faced by many women trying to take on such male dominated job.
Surrounding her are a who’s who of the British film industry, with Bill Nighy, Richard E. Grant, Jeremy Irons, Eddie Marsan and Helen McCrory all taking small, but pivotal roles. A special shout-out must also be made for Jake Lacy’s Carl Lundbeck. Playing the handsome and out-of-his-league American actor; its hard not to guffaw at his marvelous comic timing. Together said characters not only help flesh out the world of the 1940s, but contribute greatly to the excellent chemistry between the players.
Indeed, it’s because of such chemistry that the film zips along from scene to scene. In fact, it’s quite the impressive achievement by director Lone Scherfig as, considering the amount of time the film spends dovetailing into the minutiae of film-making, it would have been easy for it to fall into a fatigue inducing mess.
There is a somewhat predictable love triangle that adds an extra sense of foreboding to Cole’s journey, but it would have been nice if the film had the conviction to rely on our desire to see her succeed in a man’s world, rather than resort to cheap emotional baggage.
As mentioned earlier Their Finest doesn’t really offer anything new on either the WWII or the British comedy angle. Nonetheless it’s still a fun two hours to be had as it perfectly lays out the power of cinema and its incredible influence on our day to day lives.