Quite why director Gillies MacKinnon and writer Peter McDougall decided to remake the 1949 comedy Whisky Galore remains to be seen, and yet in spite of the initial apprehensions, it feels somewhat timely to celebrate the notion of community, and remaining spirited in the face of adversity. To be released in such close proximity to Their Finest seems apt too, for the latter celebrates productions of this very flavour, which find a semblance of hope amidst one of Britain’s darkest ages.
The war may be going on, but those who inhabit the Highlands and Islands of Scotland don’t seem particularly interested – that is until they run out of whisky. The locals eventually get wind of a transport ship heading in the direction of America, which just so happens to be carrying tens of thousands of cases of the aforementioned beverage, causing then to concoct a plan. Naturally, Captain Wigget (Eddie Izzard) is more concerned that nobody is quite taking Hitler seriously enough, and while he patrols the area, keeping his beady eye on proceedings, there’s also romance on the menu, as Macroon’s (Gregor Fisher) two daughters, Catriona (Ellie Kendrick) and Peggy (Naomi Battrick) seek the affections of their male love interests, as it seems those who adorn this breathtaking landscape will focus on quite literally anything but the ongoing conflict.
MacKinnon begins his film in an all too hurried fashion, as before we’ve even the time to settle in to our seats, we’ve met a whole myriad of characters, and it takes a good half an hour to establish exactly how everyone is connected. This convoluted approach doesn’t let off either, as a film that expects the viewer to invest in a whole host of different story-lines, as a feature that comes without a true protagonist to shoulder the audience’s emotional investment.
On the plus side, however, the plethora of supporting roles have fallen into the laps of accomplished, talented actors – such as James Cosmo, Kevin Guthrie and the late Tim Pigott-Smith – which helps matters immeasurably. The real star of the show, however, is Izzard, certainly blessed with the most well-written character, allowing for the actor to display his comedic chops in the process. Only issue on that front is that he’s underused, with not nearly enough screen time.
While having such an uncynical feature has its benefits, the sheer blissful optimism that emanates does prove detrimental too, for Whisky Galore! is lacking any real conflict, which takes some doing considering the wartime setting. But then the film is striving to perpetuate the notion of hope, about finding that semblance of happiness amidst the devastation, and the whisky they crave is emblematic of that fact, it’s the lift they all desire.
It’s through this we get a sense for that traditionalist British war humour that can be found in the likes of Dad’s Army, particularly in how we examine the endearing ineptitude of the ordinary man, thrust into such unordinary circumstances. But it’s what we do best, finding comedy wherever we can. To introduce alcohol into the narrative seems somewhat fitting too – I mean, Winston Churchill won a world war drunk, it’s only fair we got involved too.
Whisky Galore! is released on May 19th