Yes, we all know the tools and special effects available to filmmakers these days are superior to the ones available one generation ago, let alone two. But did Their Finest really have to make light of that, with deliberately lame cinematography to underline the distinct lack of high definition video during the Second World War? It was, at least, a source of humour, at least for a decent portion of the unassuming audience at the particular screening I attended, as was the equally deliberating bad acting of Carl Lundbeck (Jake Lacy), an armed forces man with no previous acting credits. This is, in effect, celebrity casting, 1940s Ministry of Information style.
What we have is a movie about a movie, albeit a fictional one. The customary note came up towards the end of the credits about all events (emphasis mine) as well as people and places to be fictional, and any correlation to the real world is merely coincidental. Goodness me. World War Two was a piece of fiction?! The movie in question was purposefully commissioned as propaganda, to boost the morale of the general population even as the Blitz was going on. Matters are made more complicated by the sudden deaths of certain key figures in the filmmaking process, mostly (that is, not universally) thanks to the Luftwaffe.
Just as it was decided by the filmmakers of what I will call Project Propaganda that its ‘hero’, Johnnie (Hubert Burton), must survive to the end, so the filmmakers of Their Finest saw to it that Catrin Cole (Gemma Arterton) survives against highly improbable odds. She just happens to have lost her temper at a Ministry of Information figure and worked through the night, so her house gets bombed while she is at the office. She also survives another direct hit, apparently in broad daylight. So it’s her love interest, Tom Buckley (Sam Claflin) who doesn’t make it to the end credits.
There’s some stuff about (lack of) equal pay, a topic Arterton has covered before, taking on the lead role of Rita O’Grady in the stage version of Made in Dagenham. And there are bits about how all the men (yep, every single one, allegedly) are terrified that women who have stepped up to the plate during the war effort won’t be put back in their boxes, whatever that means.
How interesting, then, given the strong feminist perspective, that Bill Nighy’s character, the slightly absurdly named Ambrose Hilliard (presumably a stage name), the epitome of male pomp and ceremony, is the one to raise the most laughs. Hilliard’s ‘Uncle Frank’ is the main supporting role in Project Propaganda, and the leads are taken by men; ‘Johnnie’, or Wyndham Best as the character playing the hero is called (this is as confusing as it comes across), and Carl Lundbeck (Jake Lacy). Does the film (not so much the film about the film, but the film itself) shoot (as it were) itself in the foot?
A war film whose central character triumphs over adversity? This has been done before. Bleurgh.
London lad, loving life and all that it has to offer.