By Victoria Alexander, Film Critic

Las Vegas Informer

There’s a world war going on but people still want their entertaining movies.

Before Christopher Nolan’s epic DUNKIRK opens on July 21, 2017, THEIR FINEST is introducing or re-introducing audiences to one of the most significant operations of World War II – The Battle of Dunkirk.

England is being bombed daily by the Germans. England’s Ministry of Information enlists Catrin Cole (Gemma Arterton) to help its screenwriters develop a patriotic movie to boost English morale. Catrin’s main purpose to is give the film a genuine “women’s voice.” The Ministry read some clever things Catrin had written in a newspaper. Thus, the job offer.

Catrin has been the sole provider for herself and her artist husband Ellis (Jack Huston). He was wounded in the Spanish Civil War and resents Catrin working. He hasn’t sold one painting and is bitter. Yet Catrin accepts the job with the Ministry of Information. Her main contribution is to type up the musings of screenwriters Tom Buckley (Sam Claflin) and Raymond Parfitt (Paul Ritter).

A brief news story about two sisters who took their father’s small boat and helped the rescue of soldiers at Dunkirk, is deemed the perfect plot for a morale-boosting movie.

Allied soldiers from Belgium, the British Empire, Canada, and France were cut off and surrounded by the German army from the beaches and harbor of Dunkirk, France, between May 26- June 04, 1940.  The new prime minister, Winston Churchill, ordered the British Expeditionary Force  to evacuate as many troops back to Britain as possible as the army retreated to the area around the port of Dunkirk.

A call was sent out for as many naval vessels as possible to help the Royal Navy – including small craft that could get close to the waiting soldiers in the shallow waters. British civilians responded in their droves with everything from private yachts, motor launches, lifeboats, paddle steamers and barges joining the effort.
When Catrin interviews the two sisters, she realizes that the newspaper story is a well-meaning fantasy. Returning to the screenwriters, they decide to “enhance” the story. Catrin, who has contributed more than typing to the screenplay, is asked to follow through when filming begins as muse to the star,

pompous ass Ambrose Hilliard (Bill Nighy). A fading but huge English star, Ambrose expects the script be tailored to him.

Of course Catrin’s husband is not worthy of her and handsome Tom is flirting with like a young school boy with taunts and dismissal. Its as if he’s playing the Pick-Up Artist’s “neg game.” In fact, in a moment they are meant to kiss, he makes some terrible comments about Catrin.

Gemma Arterton is in nearly every scene and gives a strong performance. Of course, Bill Nighy has the role that is the most amusing. Nighy has a natural talent for giving an arched performance as an English dandy with a flair for self-love. One of my favorite actresses, Helen McCrory plays Sophie Smith, Ambrose’s suddenly dead agent’s sister. She immediately goes about seducing Ambrose. I just love McCrory in Peaky Blinders and the unfairly cancelled Penny Dreadful.

Directed by Lone Scherfig, written by Gaby Chiappe, and based on the novel Their Finest Hour and a Half, the only criticism I have is that Scherfig kept ending the movie and then kept right on ending it over and over again.

Victoria Alexander

Member of Las Vegas Film Critics Society:

Victoria Alexander lives in Las Vegas, Nevada and answers every email at

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