The Film Movement Classics division of cinephile god Film Movement finds itself at the right place at the right time as to its March 31, 2020 release of "Their Finest Hour" coinciding with most of us entering at least a third week of house arrest; "The Shining" jokes stopped being funny several days ago.
"Hour" supplements a recent series of Classics Blu-ray releases of Ealing Studios comedies from the same era as the five WWII-related films that make up new releases. Posts on the comedies can be found in the Film Movement section of this site.
An important perspective as to "Hour" is comparable to an unfounded bias against westerns; just as tales of cowboys and indians typically are about much more than saloon fights and high noon showdowns, films that center around war-related events offer much more than battles.
The aforementioned cabin fever is a major (no pun intended) factor as to not reading the essay or watching most of the five-hours of special features in "Hour." There can be too much of a good thing when you spend at least eight hours a day watching movies everyday for a few weeks.
Similarly, a desire to not make this post a novella requires striking a happy medium between a 25-words-or-less synopsis of each of the five movies and writing a full review.
The collection begins with the 1958 version of "Dunkirk." Unlike the 2017 Christopher Nolan blockbuster, the Ealing version gives the events leading up to the civilian flotilla rescue of far more that seven stranded castaways on the titular shore roughly equal screen time as that exodus. We also get a much more in-depth look at the homefront aspects of those events than Nolan provides.
The Ealing short "The Young Veteran," which looks at WWII from the perspective of a post-adolescent literally and figuratively in the trenches, and a newsreel on Dunkirk are especially notable bonus features.
Classics tells us that the docudrama "The Dam Busters" (1955) inspires the central mission, aside from rescuing the princess, in the original "Star Wars." This compelling films portrays the efforts of a patriotic British engineer to develop a highly precise bomb to further the war effort; we also see the skilled RAF flyers who must meet very tough and equally specifics to allow the weapon of mass destruction to do its job.
"The Colditz Story" is a wonderful mash-up between "The Great Escape" and the '60s sitcom "Hogan's Heroes," both of which almost certainly take inspiration both from the film and the events that inspire it. The central plot this time is that the Germans convert the titular castle into a POW camp for prisoners who escaped from other places where they had unfortunate incarcerations. A series of intertitles that serve as an epilogue provide good context that an include documentary on the castle enhances.
"Ice Cold in Alex" (1958) follows a traditional action-adventure film format; the titular brew is a "carrot" in much the same way that almost all of us look forward to a meal at our favorite restaurant once our own unfortunate incarcerations end. The reel challenge is driving a run-down Army ambulance across the Nazi-infested scorching North African desert.
"Went the Day Well" (1942) arguably is the "Hour" film that is closest to the Ealing comedies. This film, which is based on Graham Greene story, is about a rural British village that is duped in literally welcoming a group of German soldiers into their homes.
In typical Ealing style. the story commences with the daily lives of the villagers, whose existence is somewhere between the central character (reviewed) "Passport to Pimlico" and (reviewed) "Whiskey Galore." The aforementioned fascists soon arrive disguised as British soldiers.
The web of lies soon unravels, and the real drama unfolds when the Nazis figuratively show their true nature. The clear message is to not f**k with the British.