Their Finest tells a World War II story through they eyes of everyday citizens, namely those from Britain's Ministry of Information. Their job during the war was to promote the national case to the public through film propaganda and news pieces. It’s an interesting viewpoint for a film and one that is often overlooked in favor of the more hardened soldier out on the battlefield. Their Finest combines drama, romance, and comedy yet still manages to also capture the devastating nature of war.
Catrin Cole (Gemma Arterton) is working as a scriptwriter in London as part of Britain’s Ministry of Information film team. Together with fellow writer Tom Buckley (Sam Claflin), she writes a script based upon the story of two twin girls who ventured to Dunkirk in their boat to help with the evacuation during the Battle of Britain. They have faith in their script, but the MOI has an agenda of their own in order to boost morale. Meanwhile, the war itself still rages on around them.
The contrast between the film they’re making and the war itself is one of the things I love most about Their Finest. Their film is an exaggerated version of the truth featuring a hero soldier named Johnny who rescues a dog and gets the girl in the end. There’s even an American journalist added to the picture for international appeal even though there were no Americans at Dunkirk. Played by renowned soldier Carl Lundbeck (Jake Lacy), he’s a pretty boy who has no idea how to act in a film which lends itself to some rather hilarious situations. There’s also the critically acclaimed actor Ambrose Hilliard (Bill Nighy) who initially believes the role of the drunk uncle Frank is beneath him, but eventually comes around when Catrin is able to convince him with a meatier script.
While all this is going on, there’s an unseen war happening around them. Air raids are bombing buildings while citizens hunker down in underground bunkers hoping to survive the night. People can and do die at the drop of the hat. Their Finest straddles a fine line between making you laugh one moment and then reminding you that everything can change the next. The war going on in the background is a reminder that what they’re doing isn’t just make believe.
The film also builds a romantic relationship between Arterton and Claflin, which also happens to be its weakest element. Catrin is in a committed relationship at the beginning of the film so aside from a few sultry glances here and there there’s not much that gets developed. It’s follows your standard love triangle trope, although much like war, things change at a moment’s notice.
Their Finest if a fine film that tells a captivating story about propaganda filmmaking during World War II. It features solid performances from Arterton and Claflin, although it leaves a little more to be desired on their infatuation with one another. Whether you’re a fan of history or just a good story, Their Finest delivers on all fronts.