Posts Tagged ‘Gemma Arterton’

The Nancy Starling

Their Finest

Director: Lone Scherfig

Cast: Gemma Arterton, Sam Claflin, Bill Nighy, Jack Huston, Richard E. Grant, Jeremy Irons, Jake Lacy, Eddie Marsan, Helen McCrory, Rachael Stirling

Danish director Lone Scherfig delivers another nuanced and unexpectedly unsettling film, Their Finest featuring a superb performance by Gemma Arterton (The Prince of Persia, Quantum of Solace) in one of her best roles yet. Director of The Riot Club, One Day and An Education, Scherfig is brilliant at capturing the peculiarities of the British social system, exemplified in The Riot Club and perfected in her latest film, Their Finest.

Set in 1940 during the Blitz, while London was being mercilessly bombed by the Germans at the beginning of World War II, Their Finest focuses on the art of propaganda about Arterton who is asked to become a scriptwriter on a film aimed to boosted the morale of the British public particularly from a woman’s perspective when most of the men were being conscripted to fight the war.

Arterton plays the feisty Welsh woman Caitrin Cole whose relationship with a struggling artist Ellis Cole played by Jack Huston (Ben-Hur, The Riot Club) is precarious at best. Caitrin’s co-writer is the cynical Tom Buckley wonderfully played by Sam Claflin (Me Before You) who keeps on advising her to trim the fat on any story which appears too verbose.

The story in question is how twin sisters managed to save some Allied soldiers off the French coast during the Dunkirk evacuation aboard their father’s fishing vessel The Nancy Starling.

The embellishment of the story and its natural progression to a morale boosting piece of cinema, aptly named The Nancy Starling is the task of Caitlyn and Tom who has to contend not only with the vested interests of the Ministry of Information represented by Roger Swain wonderfully played by Richard E. Grant but also the War Ministry represented by the Secretary of War played by Oscar winner Jeremy Irons (The Reversal of Fortune).

What elevates the grim narrative of Their Finest, a city under siege with Londoners being randomly killed off during incessant bombings is the appearance of fading film star Ambrose Hilliard acidly played with dark humour by character actor Bill Nighy (Love Actually, The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, Pride).

There are some precious moments between Nighy and his new agent Sophie Smith played by Helen McCrory who takes over Hilliard’s career after her brother Sammy Smith, a brief cameo by Eddie Marsan, is unexpectedly killed in the bombings.

Based upon the novel by Lissa Evans entitled “Their Finest Hour and a Half”, Their Finest is a remarkably interesting war film about the art of propaganda, the process of scripting a film and a precarious love triangle, particularly noticeable when thwarted affections develop between Tom Buckley and Caitrin Cole.

The only criticism is that Their Finest could have been edited more efficiently as the dramatic pace of the film lags at times and this efficiency in getting the story across would have prevented the narrative from becoming slightly repetitive and drawn out.

Yet despite its imperfections, Gemma Arterton and Sam Claflin are brilliant as the young creative screenwriters trying to negotiate a budding romance amidst their own artistic differences.

Audiences should look out for a particularly tart performance by Diana Rigg’s daughter Rachael Stirling as the propaganda film’s sharp tongued production secretary Phyl Moore.

Their Finest as a wartime dramatic comedy gets a film rating of 7.5 out of 10. This witty and poignant British film will be enjoyed by those that share the English sentiment of stoically soldiering on in the face of burdening hardships without resorting to emotional melodrama. Which is what the British did during the Blitz.

 

Bond Exotically Reinvented…

 Quantum of Solace

A Novella about Playboys in the Bahamas

Ian Fleming’s short story of the Quantum of Solace is a far cry from its cinematic reinvention with only the thematic strain of revenge being retained. In the novella, James Bond hears a story whilst dining at the Governors mansion in the Bahamas of a man who marries an air hostess on a flight from Lagos, Nigeria to London and takes his new bride to Nassau where he is posted as a colonial official of the Caribbean island. Remember the story was written in the 1950’s when Britain’s colonial influence stretched far and wide. In the Bahamas the colonial civil servants new wife proceeds to have an affair with the wealthy local golf pro at the Country Club and when the seemingly mild husband finds out about his wife’s indiscretion, he takes revenge not only on his wife but also on her lover.

The strange term of a quantum of solace is as Fleming explains it when a man single handedly takes revenge for something or someone that has wronged him. So naturally whilst an idle gossip at a lavish dinner party would not really make an engaging Bond film, the theme of revenge certainly would. A 21st century Bond, the recognizable character of the most successful film franchise ever, who in every film has to reflect not only the decade but the popular tastes of a new generation of film goers?

The first Bond film was in 1962 and its now 2008, that is a lifetime in entertainment history. So as with Casino Royale, the newly cast Daniel Craig, a blond Bond continues the iconic role of superspy, hell bent on revenge for the mysterious organization responsible for the death of his first love, Vesper Lind who perished in the murky waters in Venice…

Quantum of Solace opens spectacularly with an intensive car chase, Italy and then after the retro opening credits (not designed this time by Maurice Binder), continues with a high-octane fight sequence in a Cathedral in Sienna culminating in a discovery that there was a breach in security in Mi6. Further technological investigation tracks down that the informant who Bond quite intently dispatches in Italy was working for the mysterious Quantum organization and was receiving funds from a front man in Haiti. As in all Bond films, James tracks the spy trial to another exotic location to find out who his real enemy is.

The Spy Trial continues

In a warehouse in Port-au-Prince, a Bolivian girl Camille played with a lethal panache by Ukrainian actress Olga Kurylenko, who if anyone managed to catch the film version of the PC game Hit man, would know that Olga is not shy when it comes to taking on gritty action roles. Camille is on her own personal quest for revenge and Bond soon meets the mild but manical villain Dominic Greene, a French-born environmentalist who has sinister plans for Bolivia. As with all Bond films, he follows the villain to a spectacular meeting in Berlenz, Austria, while during a stunningly contemporary production of Puccini’s Tosca, Greene reveals his sinister plans for Bolivia and South America as a whole. Interestingly it is the evil plans of every Bond villain that has always accurately reflected the time in which the films are made. If it was Moonraker, (1979) it was Drax’s conquest of space. If it was The World is Not Enough (1999)’s it was Renard’s control of the world’s supply of oil from Azerbaijan. In 2008, in a world very concerned about climate change and ecological transformation, in Quantum of Solace, it is Dominic Greene’s desire to control a continent’s water supply, that precious resource that like oil is also slowly dwindling away.

With Marc Foster, director of such captivating films as Finding Neverland, Monsters Ball and The Kite Runner, at the helm of Quantum, he brings a certain distinct aesthetic to the 22nd James Bond, Quantum of Solace, while retaining the dark undertones of blind revenge at all costs as much as solving the mystery of Vesper Lind’s death in Casino Royale. Quantum is a direct continuation of Casino Royale; the first time this sequential dedication has been used in the Bond franchise, so clearly those viewers who followed Casino Royale closely will enjoy Quantum of Solace.

Quite different from the usual Bond fare

A note of warning, this Bond film is more in the style of the Jason Bourne Trilogy and a far cry from those cavalier Bonds films of the Roger Moore era with his effortlessly wit and charm. Here Daniel Craig portrays a man set on revenge, taking no prisoners and not inclined to follow orders, while displaying a physicality and brutality quite brazen and skillfully managing to reinvent one of the longest running and suave filmic characters ever created. Ian Fleming would be proud were he alive today. In Quantum of Solace, the producers were truly appealing to a new 21st century generation of viewers making Bond much more physical, less charming and equally deadly. That was always the key to the success of all 22 Bond films was their ability to reinvent the formula to reflect the tastes of the cinema going audience of whichever decade was current. Obviously the stable ingredients of nasty villains, gorgeous Bond girls, exotic locations and loads of amazing action sequences were always part of that lucratively and wildly successful Bond franchise.

See Quantum for the car-chase sequence in Sienna, the Austrian opera scene and of course the final showdown at the gorgeous Dunes of Sands Hotel in central Bolivia, which is actually shot in the Atacama Desert in northern Chile.

quantum_of_solace_ver41

Don’t expect charm, but a degree of panache and watch out for some references to Goldfinger and some of the earlier 1960’s bond films, so popular with generation that adored Sean Connery as 007. In 2008, Quantum of Solace is no doubt, James Bond exotically reinvented for a new cinematic generation and in that respect the film achieves its aim, and has already grossed more money than Casino Royale

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