Propaganda - especially during World War II - is never really viewed as a good thing. However, the British film industry was still chugging along during wartime, although they had a slightly different agenda. It’s a side rarely seen in film, but who better to bring it to life than the sensational Lone Scherfig (‘An Education’, 'The Riot Club') and this fantastic cast.
When Catrin Cole (Gemma Arterton, 'Runner Runner', 'Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters') accepts a job at the Ministry of Information, she thought it was a simple secretarial position. When the Film Division is tasked with making a movie that is positive and uplifting, it’s up to Catrin to source the story and write the “slop” (AKA female dialogue) along side screenwriters Raymond Parfitt (Paul Ritter, 'Quantum of Solace') and the curmudgeon Tom Buckley (Sam Claflin, ‘The Hunger Games’ franchise, 'Me Before You'). The trio of writers, along with the cast, crew and Ministry, set about recreating a story that comes from Dunkirk, with some artistic liberties of course. And along the way find heartache, hope and love.
Based on the novel ‘Their Finest Hour and a Half’, this is a unique look at the other side of war. Yes, people were fighting, dying and scared, but the truth is the majority of the population were still in their homes trying to live their normal lives as best they could. Food was scarce and every time there was a blitz, you never knew if the person you had lunch with that day was ever going to be seen again. ‘Their Finest’ highlights that during this time, everyone did their part to serve the war efforts and that didn’t always require carrying a gun.
'Their Finest’ beautifully blends the heartache, sacrifice, fear and humanity of wartime London.
Arterton, Claflin and the extraordinary Bill Nighy as the ageing actor are a terrific trio to spend two hours laughing and crying with. ‘Their Finest’ beautifully blends the heartache, sacrifice, fear and humanity of wartime London. It’s witty, satirical, and genuinely funny, yet it doesn’t sugarcoat the reality of this time - it just gives you a different perspective.
While the film does take a misstep in the final act by piling on too many events without the recovery time in between, it doesn’t take away from film’s ultimate impact.
It may not spend it’s first 20 minutes in a bloody battle or feature Brad Pitt riding a tank, but make no mistake - ‘Their Finest’ is a war movie, and a damn good one at that.