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

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Movie review: Dracula Untold

Movie reviews

Hello!

Sorry for not posting this week but my computer crashed again and I have only just now got it back. However, now I will give you very informative Dracula Untold review, so, I hope you will forgive me for the lack of posts this week.

Vibe

I actually haven’t seen a real fantasy movie in a while. I mean, I have seen a lot of science fiction and superhero movies but those are not real fantasy. The real fantasy for me is a thing you can’t explain and can’t imagine happening in a real life. Having said that, I really liked the vibe of Dracula Untold and enjoyed the movie much more than the rest of the people who had seen it. The reviews form the critics and Rotten Tomatoes score were quite bad and Universal expected it to earn much more, especially when they are trying to launch their monsters’ cinematic universe. In addition, as a huge fan of period movies, I fancied the medieval-ish setting of the film and all those historical costumes and cool sword fights. True historic Middle East and Eastern European setting also pleased me, as I live in a country that is on the verge of being in Eastern Europe – I mean we (my nation) call ourselves part of the Western world but that doesn’t change the fact that our country is situated quite deep into the northern/eastern part of the continent.

Acting

Luke Evans was great in the role of Vlad Tepes/Dracula. I have previously seen him in Clash of Titans and The Three Musketeers. Although both these movie were kind of box office flops and fails with the critics, I enjoyed Luke’s acting nonetheless. He was also great villain in Fast&Furious 6 and don’t even get me started on how excited I am about the third and final Hobbit film.

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Another, one of my favorite actors, is Dominic Cooper and I really liked him in this film as well. I have seen quite a few of his movies, starting with Mama Mia (when it came out, I was 11 and going through a phase of worshiping ABBA, so that movie was perfect for me) and I am also really excited that he will be reprising his role as Howard Stark in the Agent Carter TV series.

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The third actor I would like to mention is, of course, Charles Dance. As a huge GoT fan, I was really happy to see him in this movie, his role was quite small, but he did an amazing job with what little time he had on screen. I am really sad that Tywin (his character on GoT) died at the end of season 4 but I hope we will see him in flash backs in season 5.

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The main female character – Vlad’s wife – was played by Sarah Gadon. I wasn’t familiar with her work before and I got to say – she was quite disposable in this movie. Anybody could have played her character.

Lastly, props to the young kid playing Vlad’s son- Art Parkinson– he was really good. I didn’t recognize him while watching the film but, doing the research for this article; I found out that he used to be on Game of Thrones too – playing Rickon Stark. I knew he seemed familiar!

Visuals

I liked the visuals and the overall dark and appropriate mood for the film. The scenes where vampires were turning into bats looked cool and the last “burning alive in the sunlight” scene was also great. Charles Dance also looked amazing in his costume – the make up was superb. I also really liked how the Dracula looked when he went into full on vampire mode with his eyes glowing, skin darkening and fangs gleaming.

Story

I liked the overall plot, it differed form the source material but practically everything in Hollywood nowadays does so. Moreover, I loved the fact that the movie was only half and hour long because I am so tired of these super long films that can’t seem to wrap up. The plotline of “sometimes we don’t need a hero, we need a monster” reminded me of Batman’s infamous quote: “I am not a hero Gotham needs, I am the one it deserves” or something liked that. The final acts (SPOILER) of Dracula turning his last people into the vampires, defeating Mehmed in the last dual and demolishing last pieces of sultan’s army in an uneven fight were really great scenes. However, the saying goodbye to his son and sacrificing himself and all his followers was predictable but enjoyable twist. Soul mates/star crossed lovers meeting in a different period and unexpected ‘friend’ from the past were also quite nice predictions of a possible sequel.

All in all, the movie was quite good, though, you can definitely find a handful of clichés in it. The visuals and acting were superb while the story might lack intensity for majority’s taste. I enjoyed it nonetheless and I hope Luke Evans will reappear as Dracula in the future Universal’s monster movies.

Rate 4/5

Trailer: Dracula Untold trailer

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