Their Finest is based on a novel named, “THEIR FINEST HOUR AND A HALF” written by Lissa Evans.
‘Their finest hour’ is derived from a speech by Winston Churchill praising British military forces early in WWII. The ‘hour and a half’ refers to a movie about the heroic, miraculous rescue of British soldiers from the beach at Dunkirk in the spring of 1940.
That is the theme of this film and it is very effective in showing the terror of the time, i.e., the blitz, while entertaining us with some humor, drama and some romance.
Their Finest is about the creation of a movie that was intended to boost the morale of the British populace and also to help persuade the United States to join the European allies in defeating Nazi Germany.
A group of movie makers are assembled in London in 1940 and assigned the task. One of the personnel is a young woman, Catrin Cole (Gemma Arterton), who has been working as a secretary, but who has demonstrated an aptitude for writing. Catrin has had to leave her artist husband for the assignment, expecting to visit him periodically. She is assigned as a scriptwriter, under the leadership of Tom Buckley (Sam Caflin), a young dynamic successful scriptwriter. Tom is skeptical about Catrin’s usefulness in the job, an attitude — women are inferior intellects — that was prevalent globally.
Meanwhile, the German blitz is in high gear and bombs are exploding, destroying neighborhoods, homes and people every day. The writers know the facts about the British rout at Dunkirk and the rescue of the troops on the beach.
But the politicians in charge of the film project insist on playing down the disastrous outcome of the Battle of Dunkirk and insist on highlighting the bravery and successful moments of the British soldiers.
They have no reservations about introducing a substantial amount of fiction into the film. An American football star, who joined the RAF, is credited with the downing of many Nazi planes. He is very handsome and he is hired to act in the story. He isn’t much of an actor, but he fills the need to capture audiences’ attention.
Bill Nighy plays Ambrose Hilliard, one of the top movie stars in Britain. As often with Mr. Nighy, he is a pervasive scene-stealer, adding a lot of humor to Their Finest.
Here he is to be cast as an older, over-the-hill character, a role he refused to accept until he was convinced by the writers. Catrin is very effective in her assignment and Tom soon realizes how valuable she is to the project. We sense a growing affection there, but work comes first.
In the end, the film is completed and is a commercial success. Because of a series of unhappy personal events, Catrin rejects the call to make another propaganda film, until Ambrose calls on her for a chat.
The central characters are Catrin and Tom, but Their Finest would be less of a pleasure to watch without the supporting characters.
Their Finest is a very entertaining and interesting film. There is probably a good deal of reality in the story about the use of propaganda to mollify people’s fears during times of crisis.
Their Finest is at Harkins Sedona 6 Theater.