Their Finest Blu-ray Review
Release Date: July 11th, 2017.
“A former secretary, newly appointed as a scriptwriter for propaganda films, joins the cast and crew of a major production while the Blitz rages around them.”
Run Time: 117 min
Format: Blu-ray and Digital HD with Ultraviolet, AC-3,
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1
Language: English 5.1 (DTS Surround Sound)
Subtitles: English(SDH), Spanish
Rating: Rated R
The visual presentation of the blu-ray is perfectly clean. The grain and muted colors of the film suit the high-fidelity well, and I had absolutely no complaints. There are moments where you can really feel the rubble and dust and the cobblestones beneath your feet. Those moments are rare, but that’s the film’s fault, not the blu-ray’s.
I have no complaints, here. I was unable to use a proper surround sound speaker set-up, but never had an issue hearing things clearly or frustratedly fiddling with the audio settings. I was using a simple Bravia television.
Blu-ray Bonus Content
Flickers of Hope: The Making of Their Finest – This is your standard press-kit sort of “Making Of”, and doesn’t really offer much insight into anything. It’s a classic talking-heads, b-roll, talking-heads, sappy music, “I loved working on this” package. Skip it.
Audio Commentary by Director Lone Scherfig – This is far more enthralling than the film itself, as you get a closer look (or listen, rather) at the director’s challenges on-set and regular filmmaking hurdles. Audio commentaries are always worth listening to, particularly when you have a director who isn’t completely reserved and enjoys spilling the beans of production.
Their Finest is the sort of film that you might catch on a plane, and only finish because you’re a completionist. Or the kind of movie your mother might watch in the living room after you’ve decided on what to watch (but really, it was her idea), and after a few glasses of wine and two hours later tearfully she’ll say, “That was lovely,” and you think of all the other films you could’ve seen. On the other hand, Their Finest is filled with truly talented actors, above-par cinematography, and a few moments that explore what it means to be represented on film. In the end, it’s essentially about how important cinema can be in our lives when we see ourselves depicted in art, truthfully, without the meddling of studio notes or prerequisites. But that’s the problem with this film: it teeters between these two poles, and ultimately becomes what it diegetically says it opposes. By the end, a weepy yet happy Gemma Arterton marvels upon the film she helped construct, and seems grateful for the emotions it brings out of her. But as an audience member, it sharply feels as though we’ve been duped by yet another sappy, overdrawn, musically-buoyed heart-string picture.
Their Finest is set in war-torn London, amidst the Ministry of Information’s Film Divison and their desperate mission to help the war effort from the propagandistic side of things. Arterton is a woman who just wants a job, and surprisingly finds herself getting a position more prestigious than she anticipated. However, this glee is quickly squashed, as the sexism of the time is channeled through its male characters and directed at her, whenever she suggests empowering female characters in the Ministry’s products. Her superiors compare the use of a dog on screen to that of a woman, for example. The film makes sure to hammer this point home several times, in case you don’t get it. These are moments where your mother will probably “tisk” and scoff, shaking her head while refilling her glass, believing she’s watching an incisive look at WWII-era societal issues. But you know better. You’re hoping it’ll go somewhere, as the studio begins work on a Dunkirk picture, and characters keep criticizing rote movie tropes and love triangles. But what does Their Finest do instead? It constructs a rote love triangle and employs the banal tropes it’s been bashing to stuff this overly long studio picture’s last hour with enough fluff to have you reaching for your mom’s remote.
Their Finest isn’t a terrible film – not at all. Lone Scherfig, a female director who has made really strong, beautiful films before (I love you, An Education), employs some nice camera moves here and clearly knew what she wanted the film to look like. There’s a nice grain in there, muted grays and browns and blues that convey bombed out Northern Europe quite well. But beyond her capable direction and the joy one feels whenever Bill Nighy or Jeremy Irons are on screen, there isn’t much memorable content here. The music, by the way, is terribly used Oscar-baity plink-plonk, and is reiterated whenever the film lacks the narrative content to usher us from scene to scene. The same melody is used as a scene transition every 15 minutes or so. Come on, people. Please.
If you’re going through heartbreak or are too lazy to argue with your mother about what to watch, this film is perfectly fine. It’s too long, absolutely, and it doesn’t challenge you at all. But it’s pleasant, it’s kind, and it’ll be over in two hours. Pour yourself a glass of wine and don’t fight it. This is generic, period-piece fluff at its finest.
You can purchase Their Finest here.
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