THEIRFINEST

Film Reviews: THEIR FINEST AND THE FATE OF THE FURIOUS

Published On April 13, 2017 | By Matt Neufeld | FILM REVIEWS

THEIR FINEST AND THE FATE OF THE FURIOUS

Their Finest
Starring Gemma Arterton, Sam Claflin, Bill Nighy, Jack Huston, Helen McCrory, Eddie Marsan, Jake Lacy, Rachael Stirling, Richard E. Grant
Written by Gaby Chiappe
Based on “Their Finest Hour and a Half,” by Lissa Evans
Cinematography by Sebastian Blenkov
Music by Rachel Portman
Directed by Lone Scherfig
Produced by Elizabeth Karlsen, Amanda Posey, Stephen Woolley

The Fate of the Furious
Starring Jason Statham, Dwayne Johnson, Vin Diesel, Charlize Theron, Michelle Rodriguez, Nathalie Emmanuel, Kurt Russell
Written by Chris Morgan
Directed by F. Gary Gray

Moviegoers heading out to the theaters for the weekend of April 14-26, 2017, could not possibly have a more insanely, bizarrely, incredibly–even fascinating–range of quality regarding two big-buzz, zeitgeist films being released this weekend—from the startlingly stupid, dumb, over-done, loud, noisy, clanging, clanking and crashing total mess of a movie in “The Fate of the Furious”—a big-budget collection of special effects and stunt work but not much else, and a movie so outrageously dumb, contrived and unoriginal from start to finish, it’s a wonder how it was even made—to the wonderfully, beautifully, eloquently, stylishly World War II historical drama and romance “Their Finest”—a film that is simply an instant-classic, impressive, high-quality, thoroughly enjoyable and entertaining achievement in filmmaking that is the best film so far in 2017, one of the best movies of the last eight months, and the best film since the release of “Hidden Figures” at the end of 2016.

Please sit back and quietly consider that wholly cavernous range of quality in big-budget filmmaking for a moment.

And in considering that humongous range of quality—incredibly dumb and moronic with “The Fate of the Furious” to a film that is an instant lesson in quality, high-level filmmaking at every level of filmmaking with “Their Finest”—filmgoers and the public can have in an instant a quick lesson in the film industry—and it’s nothing new to film history: studios routinely display that they can make some of the biggest, money-wasting, intelligence-insulting movies that have a mass appeal and make a ton of money but literally have just about zero levels of substance, originality, wit, intelligence or inventiveness while also producing wonderful, memorable, enjoyable and intelligent, literate, well-written, well-acted, well-produced and well-directed classics that will stand the test of time. This is what the studios can do—and it is fascinating, but it’s also infuriating. Why do these big, dumb, loud, unoriginal embarrassments like “The Fate of the Furious”—and every one of its predecessors even get green-lit, while actually smart, thoughtful and smart films like “Their Finest”—which everyone should see—still get made, but also get smothered at the box office by these big, dumb clunkers? It’s a question that has plagued and troubled Hollywood, again, since the beginning of film itself, but still, decades later and on an April Easter holiday weekend in 2017, when everyone should be going out and seeing “Their Finest”—which unfortunately likely will not happen—we all know that the unfortunate, equally troubled masses will horrifyingly, unfortunately throw their money away on the sad emptiness and soul-sucking idiocy and dumbness that is “The Fate of the Furious.”

It’s always troubling, it’s always interesting to think about, but, again, when you have such a range of quality that you see with these two particular films, and everyone knows that they should be seeing, enjoying, thinking about and discussing “Their Finest” this weekend, instead of, well, that other film, it’s still aggravating, irritating and, again, troubling.

The simple solution is this: Hollywood suits need to simply stop green-lighting these horrible, rip-off, unoriginal and low-intelligence big-budget special-effects-and-spectacle films like “The Fate of the Furious”—and that’s not a random, wishful-thinking, high-brow, snooty or snobby comment. It’s true. Because as Hollywood continues to produce these dumb special-effects-laden clunkers, moviegoers can increasingly become more cynical, negative, depressed about these rip-off movies, deluded—and they could very well stop coming to see these films. That’s not a random comment, either—many big-budget, dumb spectacle films along the lines of “The Fate of the Furious” have indeed bombed horribly in recent years—and not just in the form of a bomb that is to be expected every now and then, but in the form of a stream of bombs that lost literally tens or hundreds of millions of dollars, cost some people their careers, and even resulted in massive, industry-wide organizational, personnel and business shake-ups. And this is occurring during a period where, yes, box office numbers are up and steady and many other films are indeed raking in tens of millions, hundreds of millions or even a billion dollars in profits. But in Hollywood, there are always warning signs, signals, trends, warnings and alarms just around the corner—even around the corner of record box-office weekends, months, years and movies. Other technologies, audience unrest, bad movies, total dumbness, unoriginal titles, too many rehashes, sequels, prequels, remakes and reboots and a general lower level of quality, as mentioned, can all add up in an cultural and zeitgeist instant that could indeed result in a dramatic turnaround in those increased box office numbers.

The other side of the box office mountain is always around the next pass in Hollywood. And movies as bad as “The Fate of the Furious”—despite the fact that this movie will, again, likely make hundreds of millions of dollars in the U.S. and worldwide and it will be a huge financial hit—can, in subtle ways, along with that aforementioned previous trail of similar dumbed-down box office clunkers that were indeed bombs, lead to a revolt and rebellion that could spell trouble for the studios. Again, the dark side of midnight for Hollywood is always just a minutes away.

Thus, we have these two amazingly disparate films to consider for the weekend of April 14-16, 2017.

First, to just get it out of the way as quickly as possibly, because the movie doesn’t really warrant too much introspection or deep analysis or consideration, moviegoers really do not need to—and should not, really—see “The Fate of the Furious,” which besides having a collection of, yes, quite impressive special effects scenes and stunt and action scenes—hand-to-hand fight scenes, martial arts fights, general chases and gunfights and car chases included—does not have much else to offer on any level in terms of actual, quality, original, entertaining, inventive or smart filmmaking. Really. The film is poorly produced overall; poorly structured, edited, timed, paced and thought-out in general; lacking in anything intelligent regarding story, story development, plot, plot development, characterization, character development, dialogue (the dialogue is so continually dumbed-down, it really does insult your intelligence), subplot, deeper meaning, messages, themes humor or drama; is directed so mind-numbingly dunderheaded it’s, again, exasperating; and—sorry, Kurt Russell and Helen Mirren, the only two really strong actors in this thing—poorly acted in general from all of the principles other than Russell and Mirren.

And there is one major criticism of “The Fate of the Furious” that sharp, astute, regular filmgoers will notice: Besides the movie being a complete, unabashed, wholly obvious rip-off of a thousand other similar movies before it, “Fate” is a surprisingly brazen, obvious, total rip-off of Len Wiseman’s excellent—and original and smart—action-adventure classic “Live Free or Die Hard” from 2007—an action-adventure film that exploded out of nowhere, became an instant classic in the genre, and abruptly became the best in the “Die Hard” series—yes, the best, even better than the first film in the series. “Live Free or Die Hard” smartly tapped into several aspects of emerging modern-day culture and zeitgeist and technology, hilariously paired a character-tired John McClane with Justin Long’s equally-hilarious, soda-guzzling, modern-day computer geek, tapped into emerging hacking technology and cyber thieves in the new information technology world, added some original action-adventure sequences into the high-technology storyline, and simply resulted in a great high-technology action-adventure escapist movie for the computer technology age.

“Fate” simply rips off, copies and steals numerous aspects of “Live Free or Die Hard”—in offensive fashion. In “Fate,” Charlize Theron plays a psychotic, high-tech, cyber hacker, thief, terrorist and mad genius who is intent on disrupting and dominating the world. Hey, in “Live Free,” Timothy Olyphant played a psychotic, high-tech, cyber hacker, thief, terrorist and mad genius who is intent on disrupting and dominating the world. In “Fate,” Theron’s character has an Asian sidekick as her main computer wizard. In “Live Free,” Olyphant had an Asian sidekick as his main computer wizard. In “Fate,” Theron’s character kidnaps one of the Vin Diesel’s character’s family members to influence and steer Diesel’s character’s actions. In “Live Free,” Olyphant kidnaps one of McClane’s family members to influence and steer McClane’s actions. In “Fate,” Theron’s character is traveling around the world somehow undetected in a high-tech fortress, tormenting everyone else with terrorist cyber actions and destruction. In “Live Free,” Olyphant’s character travels the world somehow undetected in a high-tech fortress, tormenting everyone else with terrorist cyber actions and destruction. And there’s more. Need we go on? No, we don’t. You get the idea—much like the equally-awful “Life” from a couple of weeks ago was a complete, unabashed rip-off of Ridley Scott’s classic “Alien,” “The Fate of the Furious” stole so obviously and completely from “Life Free or Die Hard,” it’s just sickening.

Kurt Russell and Helen Mirren, in what is basically a cameo role, are the only actors that stand out in “Fate.” Why and how Vin Diesel and Dwayne Johnson have not improved their acting, moved on from these dumb movies or tried—at least tried—to tackle some really intelligent, thought-provoking and dramatic roles to improve and expand on their acting abilities is a mystery. Some may immediately say, “It’s no mystery—it’s the money.” But Diesel and Johnson are literally very rich men—they are set for life—and they have made tens of millions of dollars. A recent news feature story simply highlighted the outrageously opulent house where Johnson lives—that’s no knock on Johnson, but it just shows that, no, he does not need the money. Neither does Diesel. So why do they produce these dumb movies? It’s a mystery. They should be trying to improve their quite-stagnant acting chops in serious, probing, intelligent dramas that at least attempt to explore some serious aspect of humanity. The world does not need to see them crashing another car, shooting another gun, bashing another person’s face into the ground, or getting into yet another horribly-edited, sound-effect-laden, grossly-close-up-shot fist fight. There’s just no need or call for any of this.

In “Fate,” Jason Statham—who tries and almost rises above the nonsense, but doesn’t quite make it because his character is written as one-note as all of the others and who, in the end, is made to engage in a drawn-out, exaggerated gunfight holding a baby—a toddler—in a baby carriage in a sequence that is so horribly, terribly uncomfortable, disturbing and idiotic, simply ends up in the movie gutter with Diesel and Johnson and everyone else.

Enough already, Universal—please, do the world—and the car and movie industries—a favor and please, please, just put to rest once and for all this “Fast and Furious” film series. Believe it or not, “The Fate of the Furious” is the eighth film in this series. After all of these years, it’s easy to say that none of them are that good, and, like many of these series, there should have been one made—and no others. If the fate of the furious is to burn out the engine of this film franchise and haul its legacy to the scrap yard, then so be it. All bad things must come to an end sooner or later.

Filmgoers should do themselves a huge favor and run to the nearest movie theater this weekend and completely, thoroughly, 100 percent enjoy, entertain, provoke and inspire themselves with the instant-classic World War II historical romance and drama “Their Finest,” which succeeds superbly, on a notably high level, on every filmic level—production, direction, writing, acting, story, originality, theme and message, story and story development, character and character development, historical period production design, art direction, set design, costuming, hair and make-up and props, music with a beautifully moving musical score, and plot and plot development. “Their Finest” is simply an excellent film at every level, from its humble beginnings that establishes the frenetic, scary setting in war-ravaged—and continually-bombing-threatened England during World War II—to its eloquent, beautifully-written and summarized ending, which emotionally summarizes, captures and reflects on all of the wonderful storytelling elements that came before the finale.

“Their Finest” tells the story of the stunningly beautiful, radiant Catrin Cole—innocently, yet also independently portrayed in a moving manner by the immensely likeable Gemma Arterton—and Tom Buckley—well-played by Sam Claflin in an impressive performance considering the difficult personality quirks of his character’s personality, both of whom are young, talented and creative writers for the British Ministry of Information film screenwriting division during the blitz, or continual bombing, of London and the Battle of Britain during World War II. Cole, who is living with an injured-soldier and painter boyfriend in a sparse London apartment, and Buckley, a single man who is troubled by his increasing love for Cole, must work out their differences, and, with an easygoing, likeable colleague, are assigned to write what British officials hope will be an inspiration, rousing propaganda feature film that will raise the spirits and hopes of a beleaguered nation undergoing one of its most difficult periods in history. Cole and Buckley are indeed talented, creative writers, and they spend long hours banging out their feature film—a somewhat creative-license version of the Dunkirk evacuation—and trying to avoid their increasing love for each other.

Meanwhile, British officials try in vain to take Cole’s and Buckley’s script and fashion it into a workable feature-length, inspirational movie—despite some quite humorous obstacles in filmmaking: the typically arrogant, over-the-top, self-obsessed drama king actor, played expertly—and humorously—by the always-excellent Bill Nighy (in yet another wonderful performance—Nighy can do no wrong, it seems, with his well-chosen roles), whose demands and stuffiness pose occasional problems; an American war hero who is handsome, flashy and heroic—but can’t act on any known level; continual bombings that either kill or wound film staffers; officials’ meddling and snooping into the script-writing and the general filmmaking; and problems with resources, money, time and logistics of completing just the basic aspects of filmmaking. There is, after all, a war going on around the film sets—with bombings, air raids, death and destruction literally around every corner.

That real-life aspect of the war provides a stark counterpoint to the more humorous aspects of the office writing sequences and the on-set filmmaking sequences—an expert display of the various ups and downs, advantages and disadvantages, positives and negatives, of life itself—one of the many thought-provoking themes and messages that dominate “Their Finest.” Like any epic-style film amid epic aspects of life and history, “Their Finest” displays the whole range of life and human experiences and emotions—drama, comedy, tragedy and elements of life that contain all of these. Because that is exactly how life really is—one day you’re on the set of an inspiration war film, singing songs and enjoying the company of your cast and crew—and the next moment, a building is bombed, there is a dire air raid, someone is killed or injured, and, quite possibly, you’re spending the time huddled with hundreds of strangers in an uncomfortable, cramped, smelly bomb shelter—full of fear, longing, uncertainty and depression. “Their Finest” doesn’t flinch from the these realities of life during wartime—and the film is also classy enough that these wartime experiences are not shown in stomach-churning, overly-negative, horribly bloody scenes—which aren’t needed in the context of a classy, stylish film such as this. The horrors of war are indeed there, present and, again, just around the corner throughout the story—but, “Their Finest” is also a positive, upbeat, optimistic story of courage, independence, hope, endurance and strength—and that, too, is another positive, and another theme of the movie: That even during the very worst of times—and make no mistake, World War II was indeed the worst of times—there can be avenues for courage, hope and strength to live and fight another day. That continual, enduring sense of positivity, courage and fighting spirit helps to lift “Their Finest” from being dire and downcast to being positive and upbeat, despite the war, bombings, carnage and destruction.

Cole, Buckley and Nighy’s Ambrose Hilliard lead the charge in maintaining and upholding their dignity through the office politics, war politics, love-triangle difficulties, filmmaking problems and logistical and simple survival challenges. Cole is the picture of the emerging, independent woman of the World War II era—quietly bold, determined, independent and struggling against centuries of male-dominated macho stupidity and piggishness. Buckley writes and works away, but tries to maintain his dignity and strength despite falling in love with Cole. And Nighy starts out as somewhat arrogant and difficult, but, realizing he has a noble and needed job to do, quietly and quiet movingly comes around to the cause, helps out his fellow actors, comes to respect Cole on a newly-feminist level, and does all he can to make the movie work.

Meanwhile, an equally-entertaining cast of additional lead and supporting actors all shine in their roles throughout this film, smartly and creatively providing a support network for the characters of Cole, Buckley and Hilliard. And, in this smart film, characters change, develop and grow—as all good characters must do in a good film. Cole comes to realize her sense of self-worth, independence and intelligence in the world, and her need to look out for herself and stand up for herself in a still-male-dominated world. Buckley learns that he needs to take hold of his romantic situation while he can amid a war-ravaged world. And Nighy realizes there’s no room for his hammy, old-world, self-centered grandstanding when there is an important film to be made and an important war to be fought. Each of these well-thought-out, well-developed characters grows, changes and learns during the story.

And so do other characters in the film—watching the group of screenwriters, filmmakers, politicians, war politicians, military leaders and community residents come together and rally around the scriptwriters and filmmakers is inspirational and motivating. If these people can get up, go to work, try to make a movie to inspire their fellow citizens, try to write dialogue and a story that will lift up their fellow citizens’ spirits—while dealing with constant bombings, air raids, attacks and death and injury, then surely there can be hope in this dark, war-torn world.

“Their Finest” also provides a beautiful lesson in life regarding, simply, love: Be sure and reach out, grab it, hold it, and cherish love when it comes into your life, no matter when it comes, where it comes from, or how it gets there—because no one really knows when the next opportunity will arrive, or what could possibly happen later today, tomorrow, or sometime down the line—and especially during the Battle of Britain and the London Blitz during World War II! People have to recognize the unique opportunities regarding love and relationships when they surface in life, and people need to do all they can with love and relationships while they can, the movie instructs filmgoers. And that is yet another beautiful, positive lesson from this always introspective, always probing, always analytical movie.

In the end, the inspirational propaganda film finally gets made, despite some serious trials and tribulations; Cole makes her stance and self-worth and talent and intelligence known, and the politicians and military officials are smart enough to recognize her talents and reward her; Buckley grows and acts on his feelings—that’s not a spoiler because anyone paying attention can see that coming a soccer-field away; Hilliard is a renewed and refreshed—and still educated—man and actor, even at the age of 63; the filmmakers, politicians and military officials are praised for doing a great job; and, well, the war continues and more must still be done in the scriptwriting office, at the film division, and at the Ministry of Information. The war, alas, continues. But for the characters of “Their Finest,” they have all proven heroic and courageous and impressive, because they have individually and collectively fought their own wars—and for filmgoers, watching their progression and development in “Their Finest” is as inspiration as watching the characters’ work on their own film!

As noted, the period detail in “Their Finest” is superb—costumes, hair, make-up, cars, offices, film sets, props, buildings, even the smallest details in homes, offices and buildings are period-specific, and nothing ever, ever feels fake or unreal. The period detail, along with the production design, art direction and set design are all excellent. Filmgoers will never doubt that they are watching characters during World War II in England and elsewhere.

The director, Lone Scherfig, collaborates excellently with wise scriptwriter Gaby Chiappe, who adapts from “Their Finest Hour and a Half” by Lissa Evans, and her cinematographer, Sebastian Blenkov, who uses various lighting schemes, techniques, blackouts, pans and lighting designs to evoke gloomy, cramped Ministry of Information offices; plain and barren London apartments; faux-fake film set lights; bright outdoor shooting sites; and scary, cramped, crowded and discomforting bomb shelters and underground fortresses. The direction is always strong, and Scherfig handles a disparate cast, a beautifully multi-layered script and contrasting scenes and sets of various tones, emotions and atmospheres with care, a soft, positive touch, and, again, always an underlying intelligence that always seems to respect and cater to the audience’s intelligence, understanding and depth.

This weekend, do yourself a favor and go see “Their Finest.” Filmgoers will see the finest in English characters who worked diligently, creatively and doggedly for their country and countrymen, and filmgoers will also see a talented, creative group of real-life cast and crew filmmakers who have also worked hard for their country and countrymen and, in 2017, the world filmgoing community, in producing an excellent, quality film in “Their Finest” that approaches, probes, analyzes, explores and celebrates simply the most important aspects of life—life itself, courage, independence, fortitude, country, hard work, teamwork, relationships, love—and making sure to take advantage of all of these basic life qualities while you can. Life is for the living, and people must always look onward and upward, even during the worst of times, “Their Finest” continually tells us, and if filmgoers leave the theater inspired like the characters in the film, then walking out of “Their Finest” will be among the best of times.

THEIR FINEST AND THE FATE OF THE FURIOUS

Their Finest
Starring Gemma Arterton, Sam Claflin, Bill Nighy, Jack Huston, Helen McCrory, Eddie Marsan, Jake Lacy, Rachael Stirling, Richard E. Grant
Written by Gaby Chiappe
Based on “Their Finest Hour and a Half,” by Lissa Evans
Cinematography by Sebastian Blenkov
Music by Rachel Portman
Directed by Lone Scherfig
Produced by Elizabeth Karlsen, Amanda Posey, Stephen Woolley

The Fate of the Furious
Starring Jason Statham, Dwayne Johnson, Vin Diesel, Charlize Theron, Michelle Rodriguez, Nathalie Emmanuel, Kurt Russell
Written by Chris Morgan
Directed by F. Gary Gray

Moviegoers heading out to the theaters for the weekend of April 14-26, 2017, could not possibly have a more insanely, bizarrely, incredibly–even fascinating–range of quality regarding two big-buzz, zeitgeist films being released this weekend—from the startlingly stupid, dumb, over-done, loud, noisy, clanging, clanking and crashing total mess of a movie in “The Fate of the Furious”—a big-budget collection of special effects and stunt work but not much else, and a movie so outrageously dumb, contrived and unoriginal from start to finish, it’s a wonder how it was even made—to the wonderfully, beautifully, eloquently, stylishly World War II historical drama and romance “Their Finest”—a film that is simply an instant-classic, impressive, high-quality, thoroughly enjoyable and entertaining achievement in filmmaking that is the best film so far in 2017, one of the best movies of the last eight months, and the best film since the release of “Hidden Figures” at the end of 2016.

Please sit back and quietly consider that wholly cavernous range of quality in big-budget filmmaking for a moment.

And in considering that humongous range of quality—incredibly dumb and moronic with “The Fate of the Furious” to a film that is an instant lesson in quality, high-level filmmaking at every level of filmmaking with “Their Finest”—filmgoers and the public can have in an instant a quick lesson in the film industry—and it’s nothing new to film history: studios routinely display that they can make some of the biggest, money-wasting, intelligence-insulting movies that have a mass appeal and make a ton of money but literally have just about zero levels of substance, originality, wit, intelligence or inventiveness while also producing wonderful, memorable, enjoyable and intelligent, literate, well-written, well-acted, well-produced and well-directed classics that will stand the test of time. This is what the studios can do—and it is fascinating, but it’s also infuriating. Why do these big, dumb, loud, unoriginal embarrassments like “The Fate of the Furious”—and every one of its predecessors even get green-lit, while actually smart, thoughtful and smart films like “Their Finest”—which everyone should see—still get made, but also get smothered at the box office by these big, dumb clunkers? It’s a question that has plagued and troubled Hollywood, again, since the beginning of film itself, but still, decades later and on an April Easter holiday weekend in 2017, when everyone should be going out and seeing “Their Finest”—which unfortunately likely will not happen—we all know that the unfortunate, equally troubled masses will horrifyingly, unfortunately throw their money away on the sad emptiness and soul-sucking idiocy and dumbness that is “The Fate of the Furious.”

It’s always troubling, it’s always interesting to think about, but, again, when you have such a range of quality that you see with these two particular films, and everyone knows that they should be seeing, enjoying, thinking about and discussing “Their Finest” this weekend, instead of, well, that other film, it’s still aggravating, irritating and, again, troubling.

The simple solution is this: Hollywood suits need to simply stop green-lighting these horrible, rip-off, unoriginal and low-intelligence big-budget special-effects-and-spectacle films like “The Fate of the Furious”—and that’s not a random, wishful-thinking, high-brow, snooty or snobby comment. It’s true. Because as Hollywood continues to produce these dumb special-effects-laden clunkers, moviegoers can increasingly become more cynical, negative, depressed about these rip-off movies, deluded—and they could very well stop coming to see these films. That’s not a random comment, either—many big-budget, dumb spectacle films along the lines of “The Fate of the Furious” have indeed bombed horribly in recent years—and not just in the form of a bomb that is to be expected every now and then, but in the form of a stream of bombs that lost literally tens or hundreds of millions of dollars, cost some people their careers, and even resulted in massive, industry-wide organizational, personnel and business shake-ups. And this is occurring during a period where, yes, box office numbers are up and steady and many other films are indeed raking in tens of millions, hundreds of millions or even a billion dollars in profits. But in Hollywood, there are always warning signs, signals, trends, warnings and alarms just around the corner—even around the corner of record box-office weekends, months, years and movies. Other technologies, audience unrest, bad movies, total dumbness, unoriginal titles, too many rehashes, sequels, prequels, remakes and reboots and a general lower level of quality, as mentioned, can all add up in an cultural and zeitgeist instant that could indeed result in a dramatic turnaround in those increased box office numbers.

The other side of the box office mountain is always around the next pass in Hollywood. And movies as bad as “The Fate of the Furious”—despite the fact that this movie will, again, likely make hundreds of millions of dollars in the U.S. and worldwide and it will be a huge financial hit—can, in subtle ways, along with that aforementioned previous trail of similar dumbed-down box office clunkers that were indeed bombs, lead to a revolt and rebellion that could spell trouble for the studios. Again, the dark side of midnight for Hollywood is always just a minutes away.

Thus, we have these two amazingly disparate films to consider for the weekend of April 14-16, 2017.

First, to just get it out of the way as quickly as possibly, because the movie doesn’t really warrant too much introspection or deep analysis or consideration, moviegoers really do not need to—and should not, really—see “The Fate of the Furious,” which besides having a collection of, yes, quite impressive special effects scenes and stunt and action scenes—hand-to-hand fight scenes, martial arts fights, general chases and gunfights and car chases included—does not have much else to offer on any level in terms of actual, quality, original, entertaining, inventive or smart filmmaking. Really. The film is poorly produced overall; poorly structured, edited, timed, paced and thought-out in general; lacking in anything intelligent regarding story, story development, plot, plot development, characterization, character development, dialogue (the dialogue is so continually dumbed-down, it really does insult your intelligence), subplot, deeper meaning, messages, themes humor or drama; is directed so mind-numbingly dunderheaded it’s, again, exasperating; and—sorry, Kurt Russell and Helen Mirren, the only two really strong actors in this thing—poorly acted in general from all of the principles other than Russell and Mirren.

And there is one major criticism of “The Fate of the Furious” that sharp, astute, regular filmgoers will notice: Besides the movie being a complete, unabashed, wholly obvious rip-off of a thousand other similar movies before it, “Fate” is a surprisingly brazen, obvious, total rip-off of Len Wiseman’s excellent—and original and smart—action-adventure classic “Live Free or Die Hard” from 2007—an action-adventure film that exploded out of nowhere, became an instant classic in the genre, and abruptly became the best in the “Die Hard” series—yes, the best, even better than the first film in the series. “Live Free or Die Hard” smartly tapped into several aspects of emerging modern-day culture and zeitgeist and technology, hilariously paired a character-tired John McClane with Justin Long’s equally-hilarious, soda-guzzling, modern-day computer geek, tapped into emerging hacking technology and cyber thieves in the new information technology world, added some original action-adventure sequences into the high-technology storyline, and simply resulted in a great high-technology action-adventure escapist movie for the computer technology age.

“Fate” simply rips off, copies and steals numerous aspects of “Live Free or Die Hard”—in offensive fashion. In “Fate,” Charlize Theron plays a psychotic, high-tech, cyber hacker, thief, terrorist and mad genius who is intent on disrupting and dominating the world. Hey, in “Live Free,” Timothy Olyphant played a psychotic, high-tech, cyber hacker, thief, terrorist and mad genius who is intent on disrupting and dominating the world. In “Fate,” Theron’s character has an Asian sidekick as her main computer wizard. In “Live Free,” Olyphant had an Asian sidekick as his main computer wizard. In “Fate,” Theron’s character kidnaps one of the Vin Diesel’s character’s family members to influence and steer Diesel’s character’s actions. In “Live Free,” Olyphant kidnaps one of McClane’s family members to influence and steer McClane’s actions. In “Fate,” Theron’s character is traveling around the world somehow undetected in a high-tech fortress, tormenting everyone else with terrorist cyber actions and destruction. In “Live Free,” Olyphant’s character travels the world somehow undetected in a high-tech fortress, tormenting everyone else with terrorist cyber actions and destruction. And there’s more. Need we go on? No, we don’t. You get the idea—much like the equally-awful “Life” from a couple of weeks ago was a complete, unabashed rip-off of Ridley Scott’s classic “Alien,” “The Fate of the Furious” stole so obviously and completely from “Life Free or Die Hard,” it’s just sickening.

Kurt Russell and Helen Mirren, in what is basically a cameo role, are the only actors that stand out in “Fate.” Why and how Vin Diesel and Dwayne Johnson have not improved their acting, moved on from these dumb movies or tried—at least tried—to tackle some really intelligent, thought-provoking and dramatic roles to improve and expand on their acting abilities is a mystery. Some may immediately say, “It’s no mystery—it’s the money.” But Diesel and Johnson are literally very rich men—they are set for life—and they have made tens of millions of dollars. A recent news feature story simply highlighted the outrageously opulent house where Johnson lives—that’s no knock on Johnson, but it just shows that, no, he does not need the money. Neither does Diesel. So why do they produce these dumb movies? It’s a mystery. They should be trying to improve their quite-stagnant acting chops in serious, probing, intelligent dramas that at least attempt to explore some serious aspect of humanity. The world does not need to see them crashing another car, shooting another gun, bashing another person’s face into the ground, or getting into yet another horribly-edited, sound-effect-laden, grossly-close-up-shot fist fight. There’s just no need or call for any of this.

In “Fate,” Jason Statham—who tries and almost rises above the nonsense, but doesn’t quite make it because his character is written as one-note as all of the others and who, in the end, is made to engage in a drawn-out, exaggerated gunfight holding a baby—a toddler—in a baby carriage in a sequence that is so horribly, terribly uncomfortable, disturbing and idiotic, simply ends up in the movie gutter with Diesel and Johnson and everyone else.

Enough already, Universal—please, do the world—and the car and movie industries—a favor and please, please, just put to rest once and for all this “Fast and Furious” film series. Believe it or not, “The Fate of the Furious” is the eighth film in this series. After all of these years, it’s easy to say that none of them are that good, and, like many of these series, there should have been one made—and no others. If the fate of the furious is to burn out the engine of this film franchise and haul its legacy to the scrap yard, then so be it. All bad things must come to an end sooner or later.

Filmgoers should do themselves a huge favor and run to the nearest movie theater this weekend and completely, thoroughly, 100 percent enjoy, entertain, provoke and inspire themselves with the instant-classic World War II historical romance and drama “Their Finest,” which succeeds superbly, on a notably high level, on every filmic level—production, direction, writing, acting, story, originality, theme and message, story and story development, character and character development, historical period production design, art direction, set design, costuming, hair and make-up and props, music with a beautifully moving musical score, and plot and plot development. “Their Finest” is simply an excellent film at every level, from its humble beginnings that establishes the frenetic, scary setting in war-ravaged—and continually-bombing-threatened England during World War II—to its eloquent, beautifully-written and summarized ending, which emotionally summarizes, captures and reflects on all of the wonderful storytelling elements that came before the finale.

“Their Finest” tells the story of the stunningly beautiful, radiant Catrin Cole—innocently, yet also independently portrayed in a moving manner by the immensely likeable Gemma Arterton—and Tom Buckley—well-played by Sam Claflin in an impressive performance considering the difficult personality quirks of his character’s personality, both of whom are young, talented and creative writers for the British Ministry of Information film screenwriting division during the blitz, or continual bombing, of London and the Battle of Britain during World War II. Cole, who is living with an injured-soldier and painter boyfriend in a sparse London apartment, and Buckley, a single man who is troubled by his increasing love for Cole, must work out their differences, and, with an easygoing, likeable colleague, are assigned to write what British officials hope will be an inspiration, rousing propaganda feature film that will raise the spirits and hopes of a beleaguered nation undergoing one of its most difficult periods in history. Cole and Buckley are indeed talented, creative writers, and they spend long hours banging out their feature film—a somewhat creative-license version of the Dunkirk evacuation—and trying to avoid their increasing love for each other.

Meanwhile, British officials try in vain to take Cole’s and Buckley’s script and fashion it into a workable feature-length, inspirational movie—despite some quite humorous obstacles in filmmaking: the typically arrogant, over-the-top, self-obsessed drama king actor, played expertly—and humorously—by the always-excellent Bill Nighy (in yet another wonderful performance—Nighy can do no wrong, it seems, with his well-chosen roles), whose demands and stuffiness pose occasional problems; an American war hero who is handsome, flashy and heroic—but can’t act on any known level; continual bombings that either kill or wound film staffers; officials’ meddling and snooping into the script-writing and the general filmmaking; and problems with resources, money, time and logistics of completing just the basic aspects of filmmaking. There is, after all, a war going on around the film sets—with bombings, air raids, death and destruction literally around every corner.

That real-life aspect of the war provides a stark counterpoint to the more humorous aspects of the office writing sequences and the on-set filmmaking sequences—an expert display of the various ups and downs, advantages and disadvantages, positives and negatives, of life itself—one of the many thought-provoking themes and messages that dominate “Their Finest.” Like any epic-style film amid epic aspects of life and history, “Their Finest” displays the whole range of life and human experiences and emotions—drama, comedy, tragedy and elements of life that contain all of these. Because that is exactly how life really is—one day you’re on the set of an inspiration war film, singing songs and enjoying the company of your cast and crew—and the next moment, a building is bombed, there is a dire air raid, someone is killed or injured, and, quite possibly, you’re spending the time huddled with hundreds of strangers in an uncomfortable, cramped, smelly bomb shelter—full of fear, longing, uncertainty and depression. “Their Finest” doesn’t flinch from the these realities of life during wartime—and the film is also classy enough that these wartime experiences are not shown in stomach-churning, overly-negative, horribly bloody scenes—which aren’t needed in the context of a classy, stylish film such as this. The horrors of war are indeed there, present and, again, just around the corner throughout the story—but, “Their Finest” is also a positive, upbeat, optimistic story of courage, independence, hope, endurance and strength—and that, too, is another positive, and another theme of the movie: That even during the very worst of times—and make no mistake, World War II was indeed the worst of times—there can be avenues for courage, hope and strength to live and fight another day. That continual, enduring sense of positivity, courage and fighting spirit helps to lift “Their Finest” from being dire and downcast to being positive and upbeat, despite the war, bombings, carnage and destruction.

Cole, Buckley and Nighy’s Ambrose Hilliard lead the charge in maintaining and upholding their dignity through the office politics, war politics, love-triangle difficulties, filmmaking problems and logistical and simple survival challenges. Cole is the picture of the emerging, independent woman of the World War II era—quietly bold, determined, independent and struggling against centuries of male-dominated macho stupidity and piggishness. Buckley writes and works away, but tries to maintain his dignity and strength despite falling in love with Cole. And Nighy starts out as somewhat arrogant and difficult, but, realizing he has a noble and needed job to do, quietly and quiet movingly comes around to the cause, helps out his fellow actors, comes to respect Cole on a newly-feminist level, and does all he can to make the movie work.

Meanwhile, an equally-entertaining cast of additional lead and supporting actors all shine in their roles throughout this film, smartly and creatively providing a support network for the characters of Cole, Buckley and Hilliard. And, in this smart film, characters change, develop and grow—as all good characters must do in a good film. Cole comes to realize her sense of self-worth, independence and intelligence in the world, and her need to look out for herself and stand up for herself in a still-male-dominated world. Buckley learns that he needs to take hold of his romantic situation while he can amid a war-ravaged world. And Nighy realizes there’s no room for his hammy, old-world, self-centered grandstanding when there is an important film to be made and an important war to be fought. Each of these well-thought-out, well-developed characters grows, changes and learns during the story.

And so do other characters in the film—watching the group of screenwriters, filmmakers, politicians, war politicians, military leaders and community residents come together and rally around the scriptwriters and filmmakers is inspirational and motivating. If these people can get up, go to work, try to make a movie to inspire their fellow citizens, try to write dialogue and a story that will lift up their fellow citizens’ spirits—while dealing with constant bombings, air raids, attacks and death and injury, then surely there can be hope in this dark, war-torn world.

“Their Finest” also provides a beautiful lesson in life regarding, simply, love: Be sure and reach out, grab it, hold it, and cherish love when it comes into your life, no matter when it comes, where it comes from, or how it gets there—because no one really knows when the next opportunity will arrive, or what could possibly happen later today, tomorrow, or sometime down the line—and especially during the Battle of Britain and the London Blitz during World War II! People have to recognize the unique opportunities regarding love and relationships when they surface in life, and people need to do all they can with love and relationships while they can, the movie instructs filmgoers. And that is yet another beautiful, positive lesson from this always introspective, always probing, always analytical movie.

In the end, the inspirational propaganda film finally gets made, despite some serious trials and tribulations; Cole makes her stance and self-worth and talent and intelligence known, and the politicians and military officials are smart enough to recognize her talents and reward her; Buckley grows and acts on his feelings—that’s not a spoiler because anyone paying attention can see that coming a soccer-field away; Hilliard is a renewed and refreshed—and still educated—man and actor, even at the age of 63; the filmmakers, politicians and military officials are praised for doing a great job; and, well, the war continues and more must still be done in the scriptwriting office, at the film division, and at the Ministry of Information. The war, alas, continues. But for the characters of “Their Finest,” they have all proven heroic and courageous and impressive, because they have individually and collectively fought their own wars—and for filmgoers, watching their progression and development in “Their Finest” is as inspiration as watching the characters’ work on their own film!

As noted, the period detail in “Their Finest” is superb—costumes, hair, make-up, cars, offices, film sets, props, buildings, even the smallest details in homes, offices and buildings are period-specific, and nothing ever, ever feels fake or unreal. The period detail, along with the production design, art direction and set design are all excellent. Filmgoers will never doubt that they are watching characters during World War II in England and elsewhere.

The director, Lone Scherfig, collaborates excellently with wise scriptwriter Gaby Chiappe, who adapts from “Their Finest Hour and a Half” by Lissa Evans, and her cinematographer, Sebastian Blenkov, who uses various lighting schemes, techniques, blackouts, pans and lighting designs to evoke gloomy, cramped Ministry of Information offices; plain and barren London apartments; faux-fake film set lights; bright outdoor shooting sites; and scary, cramped, crowded and discomforting bomb shelters and underground fortresses. The direction is always strong, and Scherfig handles a disparate cast, a beautifully multi-layered script and contrasting scenes and sets of various tones, emotions and atmospheres with care, a soft, positive touch, and, again, always an underlying intelligence that always seems to respect and cater to the audience’s intelligence, understanding and depth.

This weekend, do yourself a favor and go see “Their Finest.” Filmgoers will see the finest in English characters who worked diligently, creatively and doggedly for their country and countrymen, and filmgoers will also see a talented, creative group of real-life cast and crew filmmakers who have also worked hard for their country and countrymen and, in 2017, the world filmgoing community, in producing an excellent, quality film in “Their Finest” that approaches, probes, analyzes, explores and celebrates simply the most important aspects of life—life itself, courage, independence, fortitude, country, hard work, teamwork, relationships, love—and making sure to take advantage of all of these basic life qualities while you can. Life is for the living, and people must always look onward and upward, even during the worst of times, “Their Finest” continually tells us, and if filmgoers leave the theater inspired like the characters in the film, then walking out of “Their Finest” will be among the best of times.

THEIR FINEST AND THE FATE OF THE FURIOUS

Their Finest
Starring Gemma Arterton, Sam Claflin, Bill Nighy, Jack Huston, Helen McCrory, Eddie Marsan, Jake Lacy, Rachael Stirling, Richard E. Grant
Written by Gaby Chiappe
Based on “Their Finest Hour and a Half,” by Lissa Evans
Cinematography by Sebastian Blenkov
Music by Rachel Portman
Directed by Lone Scherfig
Produced by Elizabeth Karlsen, Amanda Posey, Stephen Woolley

The Fate of the Furious
Starring Jason Statham, Dwayne Johnson, Vin Diesel, Charlize Theron, Michelle Rodriguez, Nathalie Emmanuel, Kurt Russell
Written by Chris Morgan
Directed by F. Gary Gray

Moviegoers heading out to the theaters for the weekend of April 14-26, 2017, could not possibly have a more insanely, bizarrely, incredibly–even fascinating–range of quality regarding two big-buzz, zeitgeist films being released this weekend—from the startlingly stupid, dumb, over-done, loud, noisy, clanging, clanking and crashing total mess of a movie in “The Fate of the Furious”—a big-budget collection of special effects and stunt work but not much else, and a movie so outrageously dumb, contrived and unoriginal from start to finish, it’s a wonder how it was even made—to the wonderfully, beautifully, eloquently, stylishly World War II historical drama and romance “Their Finest”—a film that is simply an instant-classic, impressive, high-quality, thoroughly enjoyable and entertaining achievement in filmmaking that is the best film so far in 2017, one of the best movies of the last eight months, and the best film since the release of “Hidden Figures” at the end of 2016.

Please sit back and quietly consider that wholly cavernous range of quality in big-budget filmmaking for a moment.

And in considering that humongous range of quality—incredibly dumb and moronic with “The Fate of the Furious” to a film that is an instant lesson in quality, high-level filmmaking at every level of filmmaking with “Their Finest”—filmgoers and the public can have in an instant a quick lesson in the film industry—and it’s nothing new to film history: studios routinely display that they can make some of the biggest, money-wasting, intelligence-insulting movies that have a mass appeal and make a ton of money but literally have just about zero levels of substance, originality, wit, intelligence or inventiveness while also producing wonderful, memorable, enjoyable and intelligent, literate, well-written, well-acted, well-produced and well-directed classics that will stand the test of time. This is what the studios can do—and it is fascinating, but it’s also infuriating. Why do these big, dumb, loud, unoriginal embarrassments like “The Fate of the Furious”—and every one of its predecessors even get green-lit, while actually smart, thoughtful and smart films like “Their Finest”—which everyone should see—still get made, but also get smothered at the box office by these big, dumb clunkers? It’s a question that has plagued and troubled Hollywood, again, since the beginning of film itself, but still, decades later and on an April Easter holiday weekend in 2017, when everyone should be going out and seeing “Their Finest”—which unfortunately likely will not happen—we all know that the unfortunate, equally troubled masses will horrifyingly, unfortunately throw their money away on the sad emptiness and soul-sucking idiocy and dumbness that is “The Fate of the Furious.”

It’s always troubling, it’s always interesting to think about, but, again, when you have such a range of quality that you see with these two particular films, and everyone knows that they should be seeing, enjoying, thinking about and discussing “Their Finest” this weekend, instead of, well, that other film, it’s still aggravating, irritating and, again, troubling.

The simple solution is this: Hollywood suits need to simply stop green-lighting these horrible, rip-off, unoriginal and low-intelligence big-budget special-effects-and-spectacle films like “The Fate of the Furious”—and that’s not a random, wishful-thinking, high-brow, snooty or snobby comment. It’s true. Because as Hollywood continues to produce these dumb special-effects-laden clunkers, moviegoers can increasingly become more cynical, negative, depressed about these rip-off movies, deluded—and they could very well stop coming to see these films. That’s not a random comment, either—many big-budget, dumb spectacle films along the lines of “The Fate of the Furious” have indeed bombed horribly in recent years—and not just in the form of a bomb that is to be expected every now and then, but in the form of a stream of bombs that lost literally tens or hundreds of millions of dollars, cost some people their careers, and even resulted in massive, industry-wide organizational, personnel and business shake-ups. And this is occurring during a period where, yes, box office numbers are up and steady and many other films are indeed raking in tens of millions, hundreds of millions or even a billion dollars in profits. But in Hollywood, there are always warning signs, signals, trends, warnings and alarms just around the corner—even around the corner of record box-office weekends, months, years and movies. Other technologies, audience unrest, bad movies, total dumbness, unoriginal titles, too many rehashes, sequels, prequels, remakes and reboots and a general lower level of quality, as mentioned, can all add up in an cultural and zeitgeist instant that could indeed result in a dramatic turnaround in those increased box office numbers.

The other side of the box office mountain is always around the next pass in Hollywood. And movies as bad as “The Fate of the Furious”—despite the fact that this movie will, again, likely make hundreds of millions of dollars in the U.S. and worldwide and it will be a huge financial hit—can, in subtle ways, along with that aforementioned previous trail of similar dumbed-down box office clunkers that were indeed bombs, lead to a revolt and rebellion that could spell trouble for the studios. Again, the dark side of midnight for Hollywood is always just a minutes away.

Thus, we have these two amazingly disparate films to consider for the weekend of April 14-16, 2017.

First, to just get it out of the way as quickly as possibly, because the movie doesn’t really warrant too much introspection or deep analysis or consideration, moviegoers really do not need to—and should not, really—see “The Fate of the Furious,” which besides having a collection of, yes, quite impressive special effects scenes and stunt and action scenes—hand-to-hand fight scenes, martial arts fights, general chases and gunfights and car chases included—does not have much else to offer on any level in terms of actual, quality, original, entertaining, inventive or smart filmmaking. Really. The film is poorly produced overall; poorly structured, edited, timed, paced and thought-out in general; lacking in anything intelligent regarding story, story development, plot, plot development, characterization, character development, dialogue (the dialogue is so continually dumbed-down, it really does insult your intelligence), subplot, deeper meaning, messages, themes humor or drama; is directed so mind-numbingly dunderheaded it’s, again, exasperating; and—sorry, Kurt Russell and Helen Mirren, the only two really strong actors in this thing—poorly acted in general from all of the principles other than Russell and Mirren.

And there is one major criticism of “The Fate of the Furious” that sharp, astute, regular filmgoers will notice: Besides the movie being a complete, unabashed, wholly obvious rip-off of a thousand other similar movies before it, “Fate” is a surprisingly brazen, obvious, total rip-off of Len Wiseman’s excellent—and original and smart—action-adventure classic “Live Free or Die Hard” from 2007—an action-adventure film that exploded out of nowhere, became an instant classic in the genre, and abruptly became the best in the “Die Hard” series—yes, the best, even better than the first film in the series. “Live Free or Die Hard” smartly tapped into several aspects of emerging modern-day culture and zeitgeist and technology, hilariously paired a character-tired John McClane with Justin Long’s equally-hilarious, soda-guzzling, modern-day computer geek, tapped into emerging hacking technology and cyber thieves in the new information technology world, added some original action-adventure sequences into the high-technology storyline, and simply resulted in a great high-technology action-adventure escapist movie for the computer technology age.

“Fate” simply rips off, copies and steals numerous aspects of “Live Free or Die Hard”—in offensive fashion. In “Fate,” Charlize Theron plays a psychotic, high-tech, cyber hacker, thief, terrorist and mad genius who is intent on disrupting and dominating the world. Hey, in “Live Free,” Timothy Olyphant played a psychotic, high-tech, cyber hacker, thief, terrorist and mad genius who is intent on disrupting and dominating the world. In “Fate,” Theron’s character has an Asian sidekick as her main computer wizard. In “Live Free,” Olyphant had an Asian sidekick as his main computer wizard. In “Fate,” Theron’s character kidnaps one of the Vin Diesel’s character’s family members to influence and steer Diesel’s character’s actions. In “Live Free,” Olyphant kidnaps one of McClane’s family members to influence and steer McClane’s actions. In “Fate,” Theron’s character is traveling around the world somehow undetected in a high-tech fortress, tormenting everyone else with terrorist cyber actions and destruction. In “Live Free,” Olyphant’s character travels the world somehow undetected in a high-tech fortress, tormenting everyone else with terrorist cyber actions and destruction. And there’s more. Need we go on? No, we don’t. You get the idea—much like the equally-awful “Life” from a couple of weeks ago was a complete, unabashed rip-off of Ridley Scott’s classic “Alien,” “The Fate of the Furious” stole so obviously and completely from “Life Free or Die Hard,” it’s just sickening.

Kurt Russell and Helen Mirren, in what is basically a cameo role, are the only actors that stand out in “Fate.” Why and how Vin Diesel and Dwayne Johnson have not improved their acting, moved on from these dumb movies or tried—at least tried—to tackle some really intelligent, thought-provoking and dramatic roles to improve and expand on their acting abilities is a mystery. Some may immediately say, “It’s no mystery—it’s the money.” But Diesel and Johnson are literally very rich men—they are set for life—and they have made tens of millions of dollars. A recent news feature story simply highlighted the outrageously opulent house where Johnson lives—that’s no knock on Johnson, but it just shows that, no, he does not need the money. Neither does Diesel. So why do they produce these dumb movies? It’s a mystery. They should be trying to improve their quite-stagnant acting chops in serious, probing, intelligent dramas that at least attempt to explore some serious aspect of humanity. The world does not need to see them crashing another car, shooting another gun, bashing another person’s face into the ground, or getting into yet another horribly-edited, sound-effect-laden, grossly-close-up-shot fist fight. There’s just no need or call for any of this.

In “Fate,” Jason Statham—who tries and almost rises above the nonsense, but doesn’t quite make it because his character is written as one-note as all of the others and who, in the end, is made to engage in a drawn-out, exaggerated gunfight holding a baby—a toddler—in a baby carriage in a sequence that is so horribly, terribly uncomfortable, disturbing and idiotic, simply ends up in the movie gutter with Diesel and Johnson and everyone else.

Enough already, Universal—please, do the world—and the car and movie industries—a favor and please, please, just put to rest once and for all this “Fast and Furious” film series. Believe it or not, “The Fate of the Furious” is the eighth film in this series. After all of these years, it’s easy to say that none of them are that good, and, like many of these series, there should have been one made—and no others. If the fate of the furious is to burn out the engine of this film franchise and haul its legacy to the scrap yard, then so be it. All bad things must come to an end sooner or later.

Filmgoers should do themselves a huge favor and run to the nearest movie theater this weekend and completely, thoroughly, 100 percent enjoy, entertain, provoke and inspire themselves with the instant-classic World War II historical romance and drama “Their Finest,” which succeeds superbly, on a notably high level, on every filmic level—production, direction, writing, acting, story, originality, theme and message, story and story development, character and character development, historical period production design, art direction, set design, costuming, hair and make-up and props, music with a beautifully moving musical score, and plot and plot development. “Their Finest” is simply an excellent film at every level, from its humble beginnings that establishes the frenetic, scary setting in war-ravaged—and continually-bombing-threatened England during World War II—to its eloquent, beautifully-written and summarized ending, which emotionally summarizes, captures and reflects on all of the wonderful storytelling elements that came before the finale.

“Their Finest” tells the story of the stunningly beautiful, radiant Catrin Cole—innocently, yet also independently portrayed in a moving manner by the immensely likeable Gemma Arterton—and Tom Buckley—well-played by Sam Claflin in an impressive performance considering the difficult personality quirks of his character’s personality, both of whom are young, talented and creative writers for the British Ministry of Information film screenwriting division during the blitz, or continual bombing, of London and the Battle of Britain during World War II. Cole, who is living with an injured-soldier and painter boyfriend in a sparse London apartment, and Buckley, a single man who is troubled by his increasing love for Cole, must work out their differences, and, with an easygoing, likeable colleague, are assigned to write what British officials hope will be an inspiration, rousing propaganda feature film that will raise the spirits and hopes of a beleaguered nation undergoing one of its most difficult periods in history. Cole and Buckley are indeed talented, creative writers, and they spend long hours banging out their feature film—a somewhat creative-license version of the Dunkirk evacuation—and trying to avoid their increasing love for each other.

Meanwhile, British officials try in vain to take Cole’s and Buckley’s script and fashion it into a workable feature-length, inspirational movie—despite some quite humorous obstacles in filmmaking: the typically arrogant, over-the-top, self-obsessed drama king actor, played expertly—and humorously—by the always-excellent Bill Nighy (in yet another wonderful performance—Nighy can do no wrong, it seems, with his well-chosen roles), whose demands and stuffiness pose occasional problems; an American war hero who is handsome, flashy and heroic—but can’t act on any known level; continual bombings that either kill or wound film staffers; officials’ meddling and snooping into the script-writing and the general filmmaking; and problems with resources, money, time and logistics of completing just the basic aspects of filmmaking. There is, after all, a war going on around the film sets—with bombings, air raids, death and destruction literally around every corner.

That real-life aspect of the war provides a stark counterpoint to the more humorous aspects of the office writing sequences and the on-set filmmaking sequences—an expert display of the various ups and downs, advantages and disadvantages, positives and negatives, of life itself—one of the many thought-provoking themes and messages that dominate “Their Finest.” Like any epic-style film amid epic aspects of life and history, “Their Finest” displays the whole range of life and human experiences and emotions—drama, comedy, tragedy and elements of life that contain all of these. Because that is exactly how life really is—one day you’re on the set of an inspiration war film, singing songs and enjoying the company of your cast and crew—and the next moment, a building is bombed, there is a dire air raid, someone is killed or injured, and, quite possibly, you’re spending the time huddled with hundreds of strangers in an uncomfortable, cramped, smelly bomb shelter—full of fear, longing, uncertainty and depression. “Their Finest” doesn’t flinch from the these realities of life during wartime—and the film is also classy enough that these wartime experiences are not shown in stomach-churning, overly-negative, horribly bloody scenes—which aren’t needed in the context of a classy, stylish film such as this. The horrors of war are indeed there, present and, again, just around the corner throughout the story—but, “Their Finest” is also a positive, upbeat, optimistic story of courage, independence, hope, endurance and strength—and that, too, is another positive, and another theme of the movie: That even during the very worst of times—and make no mistake, World War II was indeed the worst of times—there can be avenues for courage, hope and strength to live and fight another day. That continual, enduring sense of positivity, courage and fighting spirit helps to lift “Their Finest” from being dire and downcast to being positive and upbeat, despite the war, bombings, carnage and destruction.

Cole, Buckley and Nighy’s Ambrose Hilliard lead the charge in maintaining and upholding their dignity through the office politics, war politics, love-triangle difficulties, filmmaking problems and logistical and simple survival challenges. Cole is the picture of the emerging, independent woman of the World War II era—quietly bold, determined, independent and struggling against centuries of male-dominated macho stupidity and piggishness. Buckley writes and works away, but tries to maintain his dignity and strength despite falling in love with Cole. And Nighy starts out as somewhat arrogant and difficult, but, realizing he has a noble and needed job to do, quietly and quiet movingly comes around to the cause, helps out his fellow actors, comes to respect Cole on a newly-feminist level, and does all he can to make the movie work.

Meanwhile, an equally-entertaining cast of additional lead and supporting actors all shine in their roles throughout this film, smartly and creatively providing a support network for the characters of Cole, Buckley and Hilliard. And, in this smart film, characters change, develop and grow—as all good characters must do in a good film. Cole comes to realize her sense of self-worth, independence and intelligence in the world, and her need to look out for herself and stand up for herself in a still-male-dominated world. Buckley learns that he needs to take hold of his romantic situation while he can amid a war-ravaged world. And Nighy realizes there’s no room for his hammy, old-world, self-centered grandstanding when there is an important film to be made and an important war to be fought. Each of these well-thought-out, well-developed characters grows, changes and learns during the story.

And so do other characters in the film—watching the group of screenwriters, filmmakers, politicians, war politicians, military leaders and community residents come together and rally around the scriptwriters and filmmakers is inspirational and motivating. If these people can get up, go to work, try to make a movie to inspire their fellow citizens, try to write dialogue and a story that will lift up their fellow citizens’ spirits—while dealing with constant bombings, air raids, attacks and death and injury, then surely there can be hope in this dark, war-torn world.

“Their Finest” also provides a beautiful lesson in life regarding, simply, love: Be sure and reach out, grab it, hold it, and cherish love when it comes into your life, no matter when it comes, where it comes from, or how it gets there—because no one really knows when the next opportunity will arrive, or what could possibly happen later today, tomorrow, or sometime down the line—and especially during the Battle of Britain and the London Blitz during World War II! People have to recognize the unique opportunities regarding love and relationships when they surface in life, and people need to do all they can with love and relationships while they can, the movie instructs filmgoers. And that is yet another beautiful, positive lesson from this always introspective, always probing, always analytical movie.

In the end, the inspirational propaganda film finally gets made, despite some serious trials and tribulations; Cole makes her stance and self-worth and talent and intelligence known, and the politicians and military officials are smart enough to recognize her talents and reward her; Buckley grows and acts on his feelings—that’s not a spoiler because anyone paying attention can see that coming a soccer-field away; Hilliard is a renewed and refreshed—and still educated—man and actor, even at the age of 63; the filmmakers, politicians and military officials are praised for doing a great job; and, well, the war continues and more must still be done in the scriptwriting office, at the film division, and at the Ministry of Information. The war, alas, continues. But for the characters of “Their Finest,” they have all proven heroic and courageous and impressive, because they have individually and collectively fought their own wars—and for filmgoers, watching their progression and development in “Their Finest” is as inspiration as watching the characters’ work on their own film!

As noted, the period detail in “Their Finest” is superb—costumes, hair, make-up, cars, offices, film sets, props, buildings, even the smallest details in homes, offices and buildings are period-specific, and nothing ever, ever feels fake or unreal. The period detail, along with the production design, art direction and set design are all excellent. Filmgoers will never doubt that they are watching characters during World War II in England and elsewhere.

The director, Lone Scherfig, collaborates excellently with wise scriptwriter Gaby Chiappe, who adapts from “Their Finest Hour and a Half” by Lissa Evans, and her cinematographer, Sebastian Blenkov, who uses various lighting schemes, techniques, blackouts, pans and lighting designs to evoke gloomy, cramped Ministry of Information offices; plain and barren London apartments; faux-fake film set lights; bright outdoor shooting sites; and scary, cramped, crowded and discomforting bomb shelters and underground fortresses. The direction is always strong, and Scherfig handles a disparate cast, a beautifully multi-layered script and contrasting scenes and sets of various tones, emotions and atmospheres with care, a soft, positive touch, and, again, always an underlying intelligence that always seems to respect and cater to the audience’s intelligence, understanding and depth.

This weekend, do yourself a favor and go see “Their Finest.” Filmgoers will see the finest in English characters who worked diligently, creatively and doggedly for their country and countrymen, and filmgoers will also see a talented, creative group of real-life cast and crew filmmakers who have also worked hard for their country and countrymen and, in 2017, the world filmgoing community, in producing an excellent, quality film in “Their Finest” that approaches, probes, analyzes, explores and celebrates simply the most important aspects of life—life itself, courage, independence, fortitude, country, hard work, teamwork, relationships, love—and making sure to take advantage of all of these basic life qualities while you can. Life is for the living, and people must always look onward and upward, even during the worst of times, “Their Finest” continually tells us, and if filmgoers leave the theater inspired like the characters in the film, then walking out of “Their Finest” will be among the best of times.

Comments

comments

Like this Article? Share it!

Comments are closed.