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: The Huger Games Mockingjay Part 1

Movie reviews

Hello!

I have just come home from The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 premiere at my local cinema. This is going to be my completely biased review because I am a huge fan of THG and I would much rather turn a blind eye to anything they did wrong than admit that it was wrong. SPOILERS AHEAD

Book to Movie changes

I have read all 3 The Hunger Games books by Suzanne Collins 4 years ago when they were released in my mother tongue because, back then, I couldn’t read in English well enough to understand the story. So, since I have read the books quite a long time ago, I couldn’t remember the exact events to the smallest detail. However, this made the movie even more enjoyable for me because I knew that something big was going to happen but didn’t actually know what and could be as excited as other non-readers.

Visuals and Music

The visuals, the scenery and the special effects were great. Cinematography was done by Jo Willems. The film was edited by Alan Edward Bell and Mark Yoshikawa. The district 13 looked exactly as I have imagined it. The musical score by James Newton Howard as well as Katniss’s song were also special additions to the film. Moreover, the whistling of the Mockingjay theme is my ringtone and I jump every time somebody calls me.

Directing

The director Francis Lawrence did an amazing job as with the 2d film .I wish he would have directed the 1st film as well, but they probably will reboot The Hunger Games in 20 years, so he might get his chance.

Touching moments

I have already mentioned one of my favorite touching moments – that Katniss’s song about a hanging tree. I loved how the people sang that song while going to a fight. Plus, the hospital scene and the hand sign sent shivers down my back. All the propaganda videos also contained powerful messages that were touching and terrifying at the same time.

Character by character

Jennifer Lawrence was amazing as Katniss as you would expect. I have so much respect for Lawrence as an actress and I will always be a huge fan of her and will go to see any movie she is in. Katniss is an idol to so many girls in a contemporary world. We can all find a piece of ourselves in her. I can relate to Katniss because we are both stubborn and don’t give up without a fight even if we know that we might definitely lose or at least het hurt in a process. Of course, I haven’t faced the challenges that Katniss has faced with but I channel her strength, energy and power to fight my own everyday battles.

Josh Hutcherson as Peeta: Josh had a chance to shine as an actor and he delivered for sure. Even though you saw him only through a double screen, his eyes, and his facial expressions portrayed so many emotions. And the physical and mental changes he went through were also mind boggling.

Liam Hemsworth as Gale:  I really enjoyed Gale as a character, just wish he would have gotten more screen time. Although, the scene where he is talking about the destruction of the district 12 was an extremely powerful moment.

Sam Claflin as Finnick: I am a huge fan of Sam Claflin. (Review of his last film Love, Rosie here). I really wanted to see more of Finnick on screen. The way he delivered the monologue which was used as a distraction was amazing. His eyes showed so much hate and so much disgust towards capital, although, behind the toughness you could see that he was hurt deeply.

Woody Harrelson as Haymitch: It was strange to see Haymtich sober but I loved his and Katniss dysfunctional/ loving relationship.

Elizabeth Banks as Effie: Effie has undergone so many changes through the franchise. Both her looks and her way of thinking changed tremendously. And I have to say – for the better. She looks so much better without the wigs and the make-up and the puffy dresses. Also, we all know that she grew up in the capital and her ability to see that the capital needs to be destroyed gives me hope that other capital citizens will turn to the good side too.

Philip Seymour Hoffman as Plutarch: I have a strong admiration for this actor’s work and I was really sad when I’ve heard the news about his death. The world lost a remarkable talent who will be missed.

Julianne Moore as President Coin: Moore’s performance was great. I have two completely different emotions when talking about her character. I understand that she has to be a cruel and serious president in order for the rebellion to succeed. However, her intentions seem shady to me. It might be the problem only for me because the one thing I can clearly remember from the book is that Coin is not what she seems to be.

Donald Sutherland as President Snow: I have such strong and hateful feelings towards Snow. He is a natural dictator. The biggest problem is, however, not his decisions as a dictator but the pleasure he gets from making them.

Natalie Dormer as Cressida: Natalie is such an intelligent young woman who I admire. I have recently seen the press conference and a few interviews with her about this film and she is so well spoken and so smart. I am also a huge fan of her on Game of Thrones.  Cressida was the most relatable character for me because I would like to make movies one day and I can understand that the events in real life and through a camera lens look completely different.

I also loved Willow Shields as Primrose and Stanley Tucci as Caesar.  Willow grew as an actress alongside her character and Tucci is amazing with fake acting.

Themes

This movie has so many meanings and so many layers. You can talk about it without a break.

The first and the most obvious theme is the fight against dictatorship. Throughout history my country has been occupied several times, and since I am familiar with my country’s history, I can understand the cruelty, the insanity and the inhumanity of dictatorship. But history has already happened and we live in a now and we are dreaming about the future.  This film hits the audience right where it hurts: if we don’t take actions to preserve democracy, we will end up under the iron fist of a dictator once more in a near future.

You can also draw similarities between the movie and the current actions in the Middle East, Africa, Ukraine and other countries where rebellions are rising and where people are fighting for their beliefs. I just wish their beliefs would be based on facts and not speculations and I only want the people to know what they are truly fighting for.

Another theme of the movie is the power of propaganda and the media. As I have said, the camera lenses can manipulate the truth and turn it into a weapon.

Another theme that stuck in to my mind was the inner fight of Katniss. She is dived between her personal and public goals. She wants her nation to be free but she also wants to be happy with Peeta or Gale. I have recently written an essay in my Literature class on this topic and I have come to the conclusion that you cannot succeed in both spheres, you have to pick one. And Katniss still haven’t made a clear decision but she will do it in a 4th film.

The film also portrays the war very realisticly and shows that, in war, there is no honor, no heroism, and no humanity. (This is the view of authors, painters and philosophers from the
Romanticism movement.)

These are the main themes I wanted to discuss. However, the film has so many more details and metaphorical meanings. Every character’s ark is full of examples that we can learn from. For instance, Effie shows us that the upbringing isn’t the only thing that defines a person. Gale’s story ark is all about the ability to cope with the losses and the understanding that sometimes it’s enough to be your best self.

All in all, since I am a huge fan of THG, I can’t give it a bad review even if I wanted to. But I don’t want to! I loved the movie, the themes, the acting, the visuals and, basically, everything about it. The story was smooth and it had flown perfectly, I couldn’t divide the movie into 3 separate acts. Although, some scenes could have been longer and some actors could have gotten more screen time. But I am not complaining, this was only a Part 1 and they were just laying the ground work for an epic closing chapter to this worldwide phenomenon.

Rate: 5/5 (no surprise here, huh?)

Trailer: Mockingjay trailer

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