Movie review: Their Finest 

Movie reviews

Hello!

The first movie of the year focused on the battle of Dunkirk – Their Finest – has reached theaters, so, let’s review it.

IMDb summary: A British film crew attempts to boost morale during World War II by making a propaganda film after the Blitzkrieg.

While Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk (premiering in July) will tackle and reproduce the actual battle and the evacuation, Lone Scherfig’s film Their Finest is a story about a war propaganda film, based on a fictional story related to the real-life events at Dunkirk, produced in order to raise the patriotism of the nation. The genres and tones of the 2 movies differ vastly: one looks like a grim and serious action drama, while another one is a lighter comedy drama with some romance thrown in as well.

On top of being one of the two films about Dunkirk, Their Finest interested me for 3 reasons: 1. I wanted to see the representation of the British propaganda and how it differed or was similar to the Soviet propaganda – the kind that I’m more familiar with from history classes and from just generally growing up in Eastern/Northern Europe. 2. I have always enjoyed films about filmmaking and as this one centered on screenwriters – an occupation that I would like to pursue – my interest was peaked. 3. The movie started Sam Claflin – an actor, whose career I’ve been following pretty closely. So, let’s see if Their Finest is as ‘fine’ of a picture as the title suggests!

Writing

Their Finest was written by a TV writer Gaby Chiappe, based on novel Their Finest Hour and a Half by Lissa Evans. From the technical standpoint, the writing for the film was very nice: the narrative was well structured and rich with ideas. Whether or not the ideas worked, is a very subjective question. I, personally, really liked some of the themes but was equally frustrated by the others.

To begin with, the picture focused a lot on the relationship between Gemma Arterton’s and Sam Claflin’s characters. I highly disliked the fact that their professional relationship had to be turned into a romantic one by the end of the film. I find that this happens in a lot of stories, even in the contemporary ones. For example, the way J.K.Rowling, writing under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith, is portraying the relationship between the two main characters in her Cormoran Strike Series irritates me a lot. And yet, going back to the relationship between the characters in Their Finest, if I considered the said relationship’s romantic aspect separately, I thought that it did work and was convincing. The two individuals seemed pretty evenly matched and their sparring was entertaining to watch. The sudden end to the relationship was also emotionally effective. At first, I deemed that the end might have been too sudden but I later I’ve realized that the scriptwriters intended it to be that way and to convey a message that one never knows what might happen in war.

The second big theme of the picture was Gemma Arterton’s character’s growth as an individual. Her personal story acted very much as a symbol for a lot of women’s stories during the war – how they have finally begun to transition from the domestic spaces into the public ones. Sadly, this process is still is progress, 70+ years later. I thought that the main character was developed quite nicely – I wish we would have found out more about her background and upbringing in Wales, but I really liked her subtle journey towards independence.

Thirdly, the movie explored the screenwriting and the filmmaking business. I really loved this particular aspect of the film and just loved the fact that Their Finest celebrated the movies and tried finding positive attributes of cinema even if it was political cinema. I simply loved Sam Claflin’s character’s enthusiasm about and love for the pictures, especially since his character otherwise seemed really pessimistic and ironic. I could identify with this type of depiction very closely. The way the movie played up the uber-poshness of the actors and of the British actors, to be specific, with Bill Nighy’s character was also really fun.

Lastly, Their Finest dealt with the propaganda filmmaking, not just simple filmmaking. Not only did this type of story provided a different perspective on war, but it also proved to me that the types of propaganda don’t vary much from country to country. Like the Soviet propaganda, some of the British propaganda was very obvious but some of it was something more, just like the-picture-within-the-picture in Their Finest or a real life example, such as Sergei Eisenstein’s Battleship Potemkin. And yet, since both Their Finest and The Nancy Starling (a-movie-within-a-movie) stressed the importance of optimism and happy endings, I can’t help but wonder where exactly did the cinematic propaganda end?

Directing

Their Finest was directed by Lone Scherfig. Although the director is Danish, I thought that she nailed the British feeling of the film. She has already done that earlier with The Riot Club – that movie has really made me question my adoration of the British culture quite a bit. So, Their Finest resembled the previous historic UK-based movies that I’ve reviewed, like SuffragetteTestament of Youthand Far From The Madding Crowd. The fact that the movie was executed with the classical stationary camera work and the steady frame, also added an appropriate old-school yet timeless feel to the picture. The pacing of the picture was also very even. 

Acting

Gemma Arterton played the lead in the film and did a really good job. I hope that this is a career-changing role for her, as so far she has been starring in mostly B-level pictures, like Clash of the TitansPrince of Persia: The Sands of Time, and Hansel & Gretel: Witch HuntersI really loved how subtle yet powerful her performance was. My favorite line of hers was the last words to the boyfriend: ‘You shouldn’t have painted me that small’. Her delivery was brilliant. I also though that Arterton’s chemistry with the co-star Sam Claflin was really good and believable. I loved Claflin’s character and the actor’s performance. It was so interesting to see a writer who can express oneself well enough of paper but struggles to do the same face to face. After starting his big screen career by acting the big action flicks, like Pirates of the Caribbean 4 and The Hunger Games franchise, Claflin has mostly stuck to dramas recently, including 2014’s Love, Rosie and 2016’s Me Before You. His next film is also a historical drama – My Cousin Rachel. He has also previously collaborated with the director of Their Finest on The Riot Club.

The supporting cast included established English actors Bill NighyHelen McCroryEddie Marsan, and Richard E. GranJack Huston (American Hustle, Hail, Caesar!and Ben-Hur) also had a minor role.

In short, Their Finest is a brilliant little movie, which, sadly, will be overlooked by the majority of movie-goers and buried by the blockbusters, including the one it shares the topic with. I highly recommend this film for all those interested in history and the art of filmmaking.

Rate: 4.3/5

Trailer: Their Finest trailer

Their-finest-Quad-poster.jpg

5 ideas about a movie: Legend

Movie reviews

Hello!

Let me tell you about a movie which would have escaped from my radar if I haven’t moved to the UK.

I’m a huge fan of British contemporary cinema but, sadly, I knew nothing about this film before going to see it. I actually saw it by accident – we got free tickets to the screening of it during the freshers week at my university. This is the luckiest accident I have ever had!

  1. Story: Legend is a story of The Kray twins – notorious London criminals who terrorized the city in the 1960s. It’s based on real-life events which were recorded in a book The Profession of Violence by John Pearson. I’m currently reading this book because I loved the movie so much. I have never heard anything about The Kray twins but the story of their rise to power and ultimate fall from it was meant to be adapted to the silver screen and I’m so glad that it was.
  2. Both twins are played by Tom Hardy (Mad Max) who kills it in 2 very different roles. He definitely deserves at least an Oscar nomination for this film. I loved how he was able to bring comedic relief to the film as Ronnie and how conflicting of a character he made Reggie to be. I wanted to root for Reggie and felt bad for feeling this way and I always appreciate when films ignite an inner debate in my head and, in a way, confuse my thoughts.
  3. The supporting cast of this film was also amazing. Emily Browning shined as the love interest of Reggie and I especially loved the proposal scene. I hope she gets more good roles like this one because her previous work –The Host and Pompeii – does not really show what a great actress she is. Lastly, Browning looked amazing in 1960s fashion – one of my favorite fashion periods ever. Other stand-outs from supporting cast were Taron Egerton (Kingsman), who played one of Ronnie’s ‘boys’, Vision himself – Paul Bettany, and a former Doctor Who – Christopher Eccleston, who portrayed the detective who took down The Krays.
  4. The film was both written and directed by Academy Award winner Brian Helgeland. I have not seen his other films but loved the way he presented the story of The Krays on the screen as well as the way he realized the setting of urban London.
  5. The thing that I admire the most about British cinema is that it is not afraid to go overboard when it’s needed. American mainstream films are usually more toned down because they are focused on bringing the film to as wide audience as possible, so as to earn the biggest profit. British films are more blunt, gritty and are not afraid to say how it is or, in this way, show how it really is. I give highest praises to all the people who made this film.

So, if you love British Cinema or want to see a great crime thriller from the villain’s perspective (or hero’s, whatever way you want to think about The Krays), go see this film. It’s been a month since I saw and I still cannot forget its story. Sadly, the film’s US release date has been pushed back to November, but it is definitely worth the wait.

Rate: 5/5

Trailer: Legend trailer

18967542350_58eaea0039_o