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Their Finest (Blu-ray Review)

Here’s a good little movie that many should check out. Despite plenty of praise coming out of a few film festivals and an eventual release that allowed the film to hold onto screens in arthouse theaters for a few months, Their Finest still only went so far at the box office. A bit of a shame, as the film is a solid period drama/romantic comedy that received strong reviews. That said, hopefully it will be found over time, especially since it has a connection to the Dunkirk evacuation, which is about to become much more of a known event to people outside of the U.K. With a film like this, which has a lighter touch, I could see a unique double feature coming out of it.

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Film:

As far as the film goes, it tells the story of Catrin Cole (Gemma Arterton), a screenwriter living in 1940 London. Thanks to her abilities as a writer, she is given the opportunity to write scripts for short informational/propaganda films. Catrin’s ambitions eventually find her covering a story about two sisters who supposedly took their father’s boat to assist in the Dunkirk evacuation.

It turns out the truth may not be as good as the fiction, but it still leads to Catrin developing a script for a film with writers Tom (Sam Claflin) and Raymond (Paul Ritter). The actual film will star the acclaimed Ambrose Hillard (Bill Nighy) and Norwegian-American war hero Carl Lundbeck (Jake Lacey), among others. Of course, that’s assuming all goes as planned and among the problems, Catrin deals with an increasingly problematic husband (Jack Huston) and shared affection for Tom.

The film is directed by Lone Scherfig (An Education) and based on the book Their Finest Hour and a Half by Lissa Evans. While the story I have described may seem like something of melodrama, the quality of the film, the performers and the adapted screenplay by Gaby Chiappe allows the film to work as a well-meaning comedy-drama. Despite the inherent drama of being in a setting where a war is going on (we are frequently reminded thanks to scenes depicting air raids and their consequences), the film never gets too dark for its own good. At the same time, the comedy never makes too much light of the fact that the characters are here to do a job benefiting the U.K. population.

All of that and the film is delightful as a whole. Arterton shines in the lead, playing a respectable woman with a talent for writing, which makes for a fun challenge between her and the other screenwriters. The chemistry she shares with Claflin, in particular, allows both actors to prove they are more than just actors occasionally cast as obligatory white folks in blockbuster action movies. Of course, neither of them compare to the great Nighy, who enlivens every scene he is in with real weight, be it comedic or dramatic.

The other actors do fine work as well, including a brief turn from the always solid Eddie Marsan, along with Helen McCrory and Richard E. Grant. They fit right into the atmosphere built by the period setting and help the world feel realized, even if it is stylized to an extent. It’s a good cast, which is great because the film tries to inhabit the standards of a screwball comedy to a point.

Since the film is about the making of movies, there is some joy I found in watching a movie about a bunch of writers going over what works for a movie. Their Finest doesn’t have the deepest take on how the filmmaking process works, but it’s a neat angle for a film that’s set during WWII and has elements of drama, comedy, and romance all going on. The overall result is a fine film that hits enough good beats to make the experience feel like a very positive one.

Video:

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1

Clarity/Detail: While the film presents a mix of sets and location, it’s always neat to see an English production do well enough to feel authentic when it comes to capturing a period setting. It helps this Blu-ray release, at least, as there is plenty of detail to be found in the costume design and work done to make scenes inside offices and on the streets work.

Depth: Good spacing seen throughout this film. The depth and distance is well-handled for this video transfer.

Black Levels: Black levels are deep throughout. Some instances come off a bit soft, given the film’s use of faked old film footage.

Color Reproduction: Similarly, while color mostly pops, some areas feel a bit untrue to the movie as a whole in this video presentation. Hardly a matter for concern, but were this a release with higher prestige, I’m sure capturing this film on Blu-ray would have been a matter handled just a touch better.

Flesh Tones: Facial textures register strongly here. Detail is well-handled.

Noise/Artifacts: Nothing of note.

 

Audio:

Audio Format(s): English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio

Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish

Dynamics: For a film that relies a lot on dialogue interplay between the actors, the war angle allows for some big scenes that bring this audio track to life in a great way. It’s a solid track with plenty of clarity in the world we see presented here.

Low-Frequency Extension: There are some moments featuring air raids that do the job.

Surround Sound Presentation: A good balance is had on this track. Dialogue plays on the center channel, with the majority of audio playing center as well as on the front channels. The rear channels do plenty of work as well, thanks to all that’s going on with the environment that surrounds the characters.

Dialogue Reproduction: Everyone is loud and clear.

 

Extras:

There’s a commentary track here, but nothing else of note beyond a quick featurette.

Features Include:

  • Audio Commentary with Director Lone Scherfig
  • Flickers of Hope: The Making of Their Finest (HD, 8:18) – A quick EPK that sheds a little light on the making of the film, thanks to interviews with cast and crew.
  • Trailers (HD)
  • Digital HD Copy of the Film

 

Summary:

While I missed it in theaters, I was happy to finally catch up with Their Finest, as the movie has a lot to offer. It’s a good-hearted film that plays up its interesting story in the right sort of ways. The Blu-ray offers fine video and audio, and while the extras are not numerous, there’s enough here to help this package out overall. Look out for Their Finest, it’s a good one.

 

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Writer/Reviewer, Film Lover, Podcaster, Video Game Player, Comic Book Reader, Disc Golfer & a Lefty. There are too many films, TV, books, etc. for me to list as favorites, but I can assure that the amount film knowledge within my noggin is ridiculous, though I am always open to learning more. You can follow me on Twitter @AaronsPS4, see what else I am up to at TheCodeIsZeek.com & check out my podcast, Out Now with Aaron and Abe, on iTunes.

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