During the London Blitz of World War II, Catrin Cole is recruited by the British Ministry of Information to write scripts for propaganda films that the public will actually watch without scoffing. In the line of her new duties, Cole investigates the story of two young women who supposedly piloted a boat in the Dunkirk Evacuation. Although it proved a complete misapprehension, the story becomes the basis for a fictional film with some possible appeal. As Cole labors to write the script with her new colleagues such as Tom Buckley, veteran actor Ambrose Hilliard must accept that his days as a leading man are over as he joins the project. Together, this disparate trio must struggle against such complications such as sexism against Cole, jealous relatives, and political interference in their artistic decisions even as London endures the bombs of the enemy. In the face of those challenges, they share a hope to contribute something meaningful in this time of war and in their own lives.Written by
Kenneth Chisholm (email@example.com)
IN BRIEF: A well acted and thoroughly entertaining war story.
SYNOPSIS: During World War II, a secretary joins a movie crew to make a propaganda film about Dunkirk.
JIM'S REVIEW: Let's face it, with a film entitled Their Finest, the bar is set mighty high. And while the film is not the finest film you will ever see, it is still a fine film worthy of one's attention. It boasts very good acting, a literate script, strong direction and period details, and an intriguing premise. Not all of these elements works as a whole, but the parts are genuinely compelling.
￼A movie production crew wants to tell "a story that will inspire the world". These are desperate times, in 1940 war-town London. Public spirits is low and the government wants the entertainment industry to provide a more positive uplift to the doom and glory that is an everyday occurrence for the English folk by creating a propaganda film to unite the country. Thrown into the mix of creative souls is Catrin Cole (Gemma Arterton), a former secretary hired as a screenwriter to bring a more authentic woman's point of view. It is there she meets Tom Buckley (Sam Clafin), a cynical talented writer, although she is involved with Ellis Cole (Jack Huston) an egotistical artist. But duty calls and Catrin has found her calling, both professionally and personally.
Also on the set is Phyl Moore (Rachael Stirling), a tough-as-nails Rosalind Russell type, Carl Lundbeck (Jake Lacy), an American war hero turned actor ala Audie Murphy (with even less talent), and a washed-up matinée idol, Ambrose Hilliard (the reliable Bill Nighy). Adding more prestige to this movie-within-a-movie are such steadfast British stars as Richard E. Grant, Jeremy Irons, and Eddie Marsan, although their contributions are mere cameo walk-ons. All of the actors are superb, even if some of their roles are underwritten.
￼The film, when always entertaining, is in need of a few rewrites. Some scenes seems out of place and supporting characters lack depth. It feels as if there are two films vying for the moviegoer's attention: the down-on-his-luck aging actor in search of a hit, and a tender love story about two writers who find each other. While both are interesting and acted to maximum effect, the plot rarely gels, especially with some contrivances toward the third act. The overall mood varies from comedic moments to pure melodrama and then serious wartime drama. Lone Scherfig solidly directs but she doesn't find the right tone and Gaby Chaippe's screenplay needs to show more realism and edginess rather than seeing the story through rose-colored glasses.
￼Still, the chemistry between the ill-matched lovers is palpable and Ms. Arterton and Mr. Clafin make a charming duo. Add the self-effacing subtlety of Mr. Nighy to add a taste of the bittersweet and Their Finest is a refreshing change of pace, especially from the usual dregs of the pre-summer movie season.
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