Dir. Gillies MacKinnon
Runtime: 98 minutes
This is a remake of a 1949 Ealing comedy by the same name, which was originally based on a novel by Compton MacKenzie novel… which was loosely based on a real -life event that occurred in 1941 on the Hebridean island of Eriskay. Directed by Gillies MacKinnon, this 2016 version has a runtime of 98 minutes and features some popular acting talent from British film and TV.
The film is set in 1941 and follows the inhabitants on a small Scottish island called Todday as they come to terms with a whiskey drought during the second world war. With no way of replenishing stocks due to war time rationing all hope is lost. Then one day a miracle happens – for them anyway. A ship runs into trouble and gets stranded just off the island. It turns out that the ship was carrying 50,000 cases of whiskey to America. The inhabitants of the island create a plan to salvage the whiskey for themselves but face issues at every turn; from the strictly followed sabbath day preventing their progress; to the local home guard officer calling in customs to try and reclaim the whiskey.
This is a credible remake of the 1949 film, it is funny at times and engaging enough, but it does not really capture what the first film had in my opinion. It’s amusing enough and looks easy on the eye, but it always feels like it could be a lot better. I enjoyed that casting for the most part; Gregor Fisher, Sean Biggerstaff, and Eddie Izzard did well; the supporting cast generally do a great job too. The main issue I had was with some of the poor Scottish accents on show here. With the wealth of Scottish acting talent that there is available I’d argue that getting somebody with a genuine accent would be easy, but instead we have some English actors who are putting on a Scottish accent and not doing the best of jobs with it. It became slightly off putting.
Above and Below: Original version on the left, with this version on the right.
The scenery was beautiful and some genuinely wonderful and picturesque Scottish landscapes were shown. The filming was done in various places, from Portsoy Harbour (Aberdeenshire), Saltcoats (Ayrshire), and Fife – places I’d happily add to my bucket list of place to visit in the future.
The pace didn’t help drive things towards a conclusion very fast, and considering the original felt wittier this missed the mark on humour a few times which was a little bit of a let down. There are some great comedic actors in this film and they didn’t seem to get the chance to be funny.
Harmless enough; charming in places, mostly gentle, pretty tame, lovely to look at, and generally watchable. However, it is unlikely to be preferred over the original if you get a chance to watch that. That was funnier and more charming still. Personally I prefer the original, but this film is still family friendly enough and not likely to offend mixed audiences who may find themselves in front of it. You could do a lot worse, but likewise this film could have done a lot better too.