‘Their Finest’ a making of a historical epic in the middle of historical war

Their Finest

BY ROGER THOMAS

  Christopher Nolan has written, produced, and directed some of the best films of the last twenty years including three “Batman” films, “Inception,” “Memento,” “The Prestige,” “Interstellar” and opening this summer on July 21 “Dunkirk.” This epic film portrays one majjor event during World War II. The trailer for “Dunkirk” is already playing in theaters and it has caught my attention every time it appears on the screen. Needless to say, it is one of the films I am anticipating most in a busy summer of films.

     I mentioned this in a review of a film not directed by Nolan, because there is another film about Dunkirk that is currently playing in a theatre nearby. This film is entitled “Their Finest.”

     “Their Finest” tells the story of a British film crew who wants to honor the story of the allied soldiers at Dunkirk who lost their lives and the civilians who fought valiantly to rescue at least some of the soldiers. In the film, World War II is still raging, and the filmmakers believe they can offer a production that inspires hope, courage and perseverance.

     The crew finds a set of twins, young women, who the filmmakers believe helped some soldiers during the Dunkirk situation. As the film progresses, the twins story of taking a boat and rescuing some of the soldiers at Dunkirk gets called into question. However, the filmmakers just want an exciting story of war, true or not.

     The film is filled with colorful characters. There is a female writer, Catrin, who believes in the story she has discovered. She wants to write the story herself, but ultimately has to have a male co-writer because the producers are sure a woman cannot write a “war picture” on her own. There is also an actor with a huge ego, Ambrose Hilliard, played by Bill Nighy. Many more fun characters populate the film.

     During the midst of getting a script ready, and a film made, the characters face air raids, and other struggles. 

     The film starts slow but as it builds, there are unexpected twists and moments that are true gems.

     “Their Finest” also has a good sense of humor. There are a lot of reasons for the characters to be discouraged. London is habitually bombed. Arguments flare among the filmmakers and some of the players have difficulties in their personal lives, and yet they persevere. Sometimes their fun and joy must be manufactured for the good of all. Watching a movie like “Their Finest” or “The Zookeeper’s Wife” reminds us how small are our daily struggles. My generation, and those who have come after we “Baby Boomers,” are a bit spoiled and we need films and other things to remind us how truly blessed we are. 

      Then there are the scenes where the characters are creating the film. Films in the early 1940’s did not have the sophisticated sets and effects as most films have today. Nolan’s “Dunkirk” will certainly have a great many shots that are created by special effects long after the character filming is finished. The filmmakers in “Their Finest” have much less filmmaking magic but they have great pride in the work they do and the story they tell.

     We still have a while before “Dunkirk” opens on July 21 of this year. So if you are curious to learn about the events, or review them before you see Nolan’s story of Dunkirk, I recommend you seek “Their Finest.” 

     For me, it was one of those films that surprises; it turns out to be something better than I ever expected. As I say often, the best experience you can have at the cinema is  when a film presents you with more than you hoped.

Roger Thomas is a member of the North Carolina Film Critics Association. He reviews films for The Stanly News & Press.

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