Starring: Gemma Arterton, Sam Claflin, Bill Nighy, Jack Huston, Jake Lacy, Richard E. Grant, Henry Goodman, Helen McCrory, Claudia Jessie
OUR RATING: ★★★½
Story: Romantic comedy directed by Lone Scherfig set 1940’s in London, during the Blitz, with the country’s morale at stake, Catrin (Gemma Arterton), an untried screenwriter, and a makeshift cast and crew, work under fire to make a film to lift the nation’s flagging spirits; and inspire America to join the war. Partnered with fellow writer, Buckley (Sam Claflin), the pair, along with fading matinee idol Ambrose Hilliard (Bill Nighy), reluctantly joins forces on a movie to warm the hearts of the nation and capture the imagination of the US public.
Verdict: Old-fashioned understated sweet war drama with a witty and sharp script and some great performances, especially from the two leads Gemma Arterton and Sam Claflin. The story is a satire on the 1940’s film industry in the UK, and it’s presented in the style of movie within a movie. Although it lags in some places and it has an uneven tone the acting and premise make it worth the watch.
Best Quotes (Total Quotes: 29)
Tom Buckley: The thing about men who get sent away to war is that some of them don’t come back at all.
Roger Swain: So sorry. Monstrous of us to have kept you waiting. Welcome to the Ministry of Information, Film Division. Roger Swain. You must be Miss Cole?
Catrin Cole: Mrs.
Roger Swain: Ah, splendid. Please take a seat. Husband in the forces?
Catrin Cole: He volunteers as an air-raid warden, but he wasn’t fit for conscription. He fought in the war in Spain.
Roger Swain: Splendid. That’s splendid. Now, about the job. We need to cultivate a more convincing female angle in our output. Mr. Buckley here has been appointed to the department as a special advisor.
Tom Buckley: Not special enough to get paid, obviously.
Roger Swain: He seems to think, you’re what we need.
Tom Buckley: I said, “Might be.” She can’t be worse than the chaps you’ve got. Did you write this?
[holds up her story in the paper]
Catrin Cole: Mm-hmm.
Tom Buckley: This rapta-rama chips?
Catrin Cole: I, I was the secretary at the copywriting department, but all the copywriters got called up.
[reading from her story in the paper]
Tom Buckley: “So-be-fee. It ain’t beef, but it ain’t bad. Because sometimes you just have to make do with what you’ve got.”
Roger Swain: Ah, splendid. Ministry wages start at three-ten, and obviously we can’t pay you as much as the chaps, so shall we say two pounds a week?
Catrin Cole: Thank you.
Secretary of War: Mr. Churchill is persuaded that film can show this is a war American should be fighting.
Roger Swain: If we were to capture the public imagination and their trust, we need a story to inspire a nation.
Tom Buckley: Dunkirk. The evacuation of troops trapped by the German advance.
Catrin Cole: It’s very good.
Tom Buckley: Dunkirk, the miracle that put the fire back in all our bellies.
Tom Buckley: We know how it starts. Twin sisters took their father’s yacht over to join the rescue. We know how it ends.
Raymond Parfitt: Three hundred and thirty-eight thousand home safe
Tom Buckley: Now all we have to do is fill in the gaps.
Catrin Cole: Doing what?
Tom Buckley: Mrs. Cole, we’ll need someone to write the slop.
Catrin Cole: Slop?
Tom Buckley: Girl talk. Women’s dialogue.
Catrin Cole: I thought it was a secretarial post.
Phyl Moore: Oh, for God’s sake keep that to yourself.
Secretary of War: [to Catrin] Thirty million attend the cinema every week. Your film must show your American sisters that this is a war their husbands should be fighting. We must give them a character with whom they can identify.
Tom Buckley: Too long, lose half.
Catrin Cole: Which half?
Tom Buckley: The half that you don’t need.
Tom Buckley: [to Catrin] So what do you think? No screen credit.
[referring to Sammy’s dog, who Sammy has picked up in his arms]
Ambrose Hilliard: You know, if you paid your clients half as much attention as you do that hyena, you might actually be an agent worth having.
Spitfires Collector: Spitfires. Won’t you help a buy…
[she freezes as she recognizes Hilliard]
Spitfires Collector: Ambrose Hilliard, a man with the glint. Oh, I know it’s a liberty, but would you do him for me? Would you? Inspector Charnforth?
[Hilliard does the dialogue from his famous role]
Ambrose Hilliard: Someone has made a mistake. It’s a simple mistake and easy to miss And it’s easy to make. I almost missed it myself.
[the woman smiles with pleasure]
Ambrose Hilliard: Oh, um, Spitfires, Sammy?
Sammy Smith: It’s in the pocket. It’s in the pocket.
[he turns around so Hilliard can access his coat pocket since his hands are busy holding his dog]
Ambrose Hilliard: Ah.
[Hilliard takes out some coins from Sammy’s pocket and drops it in the collector’s bucket]
Spitfires Collector: Thank you.
[Hilliard and Sammy starts to walk off]
Spitfires Collector: Oh, when can we expect to see you back on the screen, Mr. Hilliard?
Ambrose Hilliard: When indeed?
Sammy Smith: Well, apparently Baker Films have our Dunkirk script in the works.
Ambrose Hilliard: Well perhaps your sister would like to start feeding me too, unless of course you actually found me some work.
Sammy Smith: So, Baker’s outlined for the Dunkirk film. You read it?
Ambrose Hilliard: It rattles along better rather than one might’ve expected. Johnnie’s escaped from the steel thrust of the German war machine. The rescue of the dog, very good.
[he whistles as if trying to catch the attention of a dog]
Ambrose Hilliard: Here, boy! Here!
Sammy Smith: [to his dog] No, no. No. Not you Cerberus.
Ambrose Hilliard: Of course it all depends on who they are planning to cast as Rose.
[he opens up the script and sees he’s been cast]
Ambrose Hilliard: Uncle Frank. A shipwreck of a man. Sad! Sixties, looks older.
Sammy Smith: Still a role not to be snared at, Ambrose. Gravitas, experience, maturity. Well, we all have a part to play in defeating Hitler.
Ambrose Hilliard: Not this part. It’s a corpse role. He’s dead before the end of act three!
Cecy: [coughing] Oh. Do you really have to smoke that thing, darling? Couldn’t you just mime?
Ambrose Hilliard: I can mime smoking, I can’t mime smoke.
Walter, The Director: That’s a cut.
Cecy: I wonder, would it be possible to have something knitting? My hands are aching for something to do, and it seems alright for the character.
Walter, The Director: Props, yeah, I’ll try to find some knitting.
Ambrose Hilliard: Walter, a word. I fully understand the national importance of what we’re shooting, and obviously, there’s no question of diluting the message. I just wonder if it might impact a little more punch if Mr. Brown were to express a little more. For example, of the mention of the clever code, I might say, “Well, that’ll be the first clever thing, April has ever done in her life
[he starts laughing]
Ambrose Hilliard: Do you see? Just a, just a, just a dash of humor and then follow it on.
[Catrin interrupts them so that she get him to look at her script]
Catrin Cole: Excuse me.
Ambrose Hilliard: Hello.
Catrin Cole: Hello
Ambrose Hilliard: Oh, certainly.
[he signs his autograph on her script]
Catrin Cole: Oh, no, no, no. It’s just that the caption at the end’s going to be, “He’s not listening, but the enemy might be.” It’s a joke for women who think their husbands never pay attention. So if you start answering, you know, well the captions won’t make sense.
[Hilliard looks at her confused]
Catrin Cole: I wrote it. The scenario.
Ambrose Hilliard: I’ll be in my dressing room, if anyone needs me.
[looking displeased Hilliard walks off]
Walter, The Director: Everybody take ten.
The Gaffer: Save the lights!
[after the incident with Hilliard on the set]
Tom Buckley: Banished from the set. What in God’s name possessed you?
Catrin Cole: The actor was ruining the script.
Tom Buckley: Of course he was, he’s an actor. What’s this? Penance?
Ambrose Hilliard: Gentlemen, I fear that there has been some sort of misapprehension. I’m an actor, a somewhat derided calling, but mine nonetheless. Perhaps because we a engaged in an imitation of life there is a common misconception, that anything living can do what we do. You have found not to be so, for which I offer my, um, sincerest commiserations. I’m an actor, I know only my art. Of teaching, of coaching, of “dumb show”, these things, I’m afraid, I know nothing. I’m so sorry to disappoint.
Catrin Cole: Mr. Hilliard, you’re right. You’re right. Everything you just said. It’s about respect, for the art and for the artists, and it makes me think, how wrong we’ve been, playing Uncle Frank for laughs. Yes, he’s a drunkard and a clown, but he’s also all those people who gave their sons to one war and now their grandsons to another. If we served that truth. If we gave you an Uncle Frank really worth your time and your talent, I wonder, if you would consider putting that same time and talent towards helping Mr. Lundbeck and the picture?
Ambrose Hilliard: Hm. I don’t think we’ve been properly introduced.
Catrin Cole: I’m Catrin Cole. I’m one of the writers.
Ambrose Hilliard: Catrin. Between us, we’ll have them weeping in the aisles.
Tom Buckley: [to Catrin] People like films because stories are a structure, and when things turn bad it’s still part of a plan. There’s a point to it.
Phyl Moore: A lot of men are scared we won’t go back into our boxes when this is over.
Phyl Moore: Oh, I shouldn’t worry about that. He’s an actor. Unless you review them, have intercourse with them or do both simultaneously, they don’t remember you.
Tom Buckley: [to Catrin] Your work is good, very good. None of them could have done any better.
Catrin Cole: I’m sorry, I can’t do this anymore.
Ambrose Hilliard: [to Catrin] You and me given opportunities only because young men are gone. But to turn our back on those opportunities, wouldn’t that be giving death dominion over life?
Catrin Cole: [to Tom] If all of this stopped, even if I were dead, I’d miss it, and I’d miss you.
Ambrose Hilliard: [to Catrin] Have you seen it, our film? I’m awfully good. So are you.
Soldier: There’s so many of us, they’ll never get us all out.
Ambrose Hilliard: Mrs. Cole, uh, where is she?
The Director: Cut! Could someone please get Mr. Hilliard out of Dunkirk.
[Catrin is typing her story for the movie]
Catrin Cole: A full moon, a clear sky. A man sits by the shore. There has been a quarrel. A woman is walking away from him. Now she turns back.
[as she’s telling her story, we see it being inacted by herself and Tom]
Catrin Cole: I didn’t mean what I just said. And anyway, you said worse.
Tom Buckley: It’s a declaration.
Catrin Cole: Stupid bloody fool is good. Did you think of that beforehand?
Tom Buckley: Are you trying to put a fight with me Mrs. Cole?
Catrin Cole: No, what I’m trying to say is that, if all of this stopped. The sparring and the jibing, and the insults and the arguments, I’d miss it. Even if I were dead, I’d still miss it.
Tom Buckley: The Catrin Cole school of dialog. On and on and on and on and on. Lose half.
Catrin Cole: Which half?
Tom Buckley: The half you don’t need.
Catrin Cole: Alright. Alright. I’d miss you. I miss you more than I can say.
Total Quotes: 29