Their Finest – based on the novel, Their Finest Hour And A Half – in case you wondered why the title didn’t make a huge heap of sense and was wildly ambiguous – centres around a film company trying to make morale-boosting movies during World War II, where everyone’s overacting… in this movie, not the ones within.
The threadbare plot (in fact, it’s even more lightweight than the movies they’re making!) sees secretary Catrin Cole (Gemma Arterton) turning her hand to scriptwriting, co-operating with Tom Buckley (Sam Claflin) for a feelgood story about what happened in Dunkirk, based on the experience of two female twins who took their boat into the action. Christopher Nolan, eat your 70mm IMAX heart out… not!
The main star in all these war films is Bill Nighy as the OTT Ambrose Hilliard, but in reality, it’s Bill Nighy being exactly the same as he is in everything, which isn’t normally a bad thing, but here, it’s just like he’s mostly phoning it in. Also add in dodgy German accents for characters portrayed by Eddie Marsan as Nighy’s agent, Sammy Smith, and Helen McCrory as Sammy’s sister, Sophie. And bear in mind that these are characters in Their Finest, and not in the film-within-a-film, so given that they’re seasoned actors, why are they allowed to get off with such terrible Allo Allo-style mutterings?
In a time when men expect their wives to follow their career and abandon any hope of having their own, Their Finest is portrayed as an inoffensive British feelgood film, especially when it comes to making something good out of the Second World War, but I found it dull and twee. It’s the kind of thing you can show to your gran on a Sunday afternoon, bar the typically-enforced f-word or three, thrown in to secure a 12-certificate, since this sort of thing equates to a PG-13 in the US, and for a live-action film in the US, a PG is considered box-office death.
That said, for reasons of which I’m unsure, this isn’t a PG-13 in the US, but is actually R-rated! I don’t think I’ve ever seen that for a UK 12-cert before. Okay, so the film is set during the Blitz, and there are brief reminders of why war is unpleasant, but they’re not gratuitous. Plus, there’s a brief bit of bed-bound hanky panky, in one scene, but it certainly ain’t Basic Instinct!!!
The only laugh I got came from a slightly amusing joke about Nighy’s character and the backdrop of Dunkirk, but if you saw the trailer, then you’ll know the punchline already.
No-one’s firing on all cylinders, here, bar the Germans, obviously, while Ms Arterton mostly sleepwalks through the film. Also add a token lesbian, plus add some contrived implausibilities that make you think, “Oh, pur-lease!”, and while there are occasional moments where you *don’t* want to push the hands of time forward by two hours, for the rest, it’s predictable, self-satisfied and deeply tedious.
The film is presented in the original theatrical ratio of 2.35:1 and in 1080p high definition, and there’s no issues with the print whatsoever. It looks stunning as you’d expect for a modern movie, bringing the period look to the screen with ease, and I’m watching on a Panasonic 50″ Plasma TV, connected to a PS4.
The audio is in DTS HD MA 5.1. There’s not a great deal to get excited about, as nothing much uses the speakers to great effect apart from the obvious Blitz experiences.
The extras feel mostly like an afterthought:
- Flickers of Hope: The Making Of Their Finest (8:17): The only main extra and it’s merely an afterthought that’s made to fill a few minutes on Sky inbetween films – the usual mix of clips from the film against soundbites from key cast and crew members.
- Audio Description: Does exactly what it says on the tin.
- Audio Commentary: From director Lone Scherfig
The main menu is features the cover but with clips in the background, subtitles are in English only, and just a bog-standard 12 chapters, while I always work on the rule of thumb of one every five minutes.
Running time: 117 minutes
Released: August 21st 2017
Picture: 1080p High Definition
Languages/Audio: DTS HD MA 5.1
Subtitles, English SDH
Aspect ratio: 2.35:1
Disc Format: BD50
Directors: Lone Scherfig
Producers: Finola Dwyer, Amanda Posey and Stephen Woolley
Screenplay: Gaby Chiappe (based on the novel “Their Finest Hour and a Half” by Lissa Evans)
Music: Rachel Portman
Catrin Cole: Gemma Arterton
Tom Buckley: Sam Claflin
Ambrose Hilliard: Bill Nighy
Ellis Cole: Jack Huston
Raymond Parfitt: Paul Ritter
Phyl Moore: Rachael Stirling
Roger Swain: Richard E Grant
Gabriel Baker: Henry Goodman
Carl Lundbeck: Jake Lacy
Secretary of War: Jeremy Irons
Sammy Smith: Eddie Marsan
Sophie Smith: Helen McCrory
Wyndham Best: Hubert Burton
Doris Cleavely: Claudia Jessie
Angela Ralli-Thomas: Stephanie Hyam
Alex, The Director: Michael Marcus
Chick, The 1st AD: Gordon Brown
Rex, The Clapper Loader: Patrick Gibson
The Make-Up Artist: Julia Lewis
Rose Starling: Lily Knight
Lily Starling: Francesca Knight
Mr. Starling: Clive Russell
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.