EIFF 2016: Whisky Galore (2016)
Based on the original Ealing movie that was based on a novel that was based on a true incident, Whisky Galore will already be pretty familiar to film fans. But I’ll quickly cover the plot anyway. It’s wartime. People can’t always get as much whisky as they would like, especially those living on the small isle of Todday. In fact, it looks like a complete disaster for most of the residents when they end up running dry. Until a ship crashes on some nearby rocks, one carrying thousands and thousands of cases . . . . . . . of whisky. The locals want to make sure that they rescue as much as they can before it descends to Davy Jones’s Locker, but there are some officials who will do their best to punish any potential thieves.
Director Gillies MacKinnon directs this slice of amusing tartan twaddle, and he does so with a focus on cosiness and predictability (inevitable, I guess, when filming a remake). The script has been worked on by Peter McDougall, one or two lines will even prompt a hearty guffaw, and the cast delivering the dialogue includes luminaries such as Gregor Fisher, Eddie Izzard, James Cosmo, Sean Biggerstaff, Naomi Battrick, Kevin Guthrie, and Ellie Kendrick. They’re all decent enough, ensuring that they deliver every line clearly, and with a singsong lilt to the words. Fisher and Izzard are the highlights, with both representing the opposite sides of the whisky subterfuge.
To clarify, although I have described the film as a very safe, easygoing bit of fluff, I don’t mean that as a harsh criticism. On the contrary, it’s refreshing to see everything played out in a way that doesn’t patronise modern moviegoers, or attempt to make anything more modern and trendy. The time period has a lot to do with that, of course, but it’s also in the dialogue, the performances, the soundtrack of generic traditional Scottish music (lots of fiddles played, some bagpipes, etc), and the lack of any cynicism. There’s not even a major villain, really, although Izzard and Annie Louise Ross share those duties for most of the runtime, with the latter playing a formidably harsh mother to her onscreen son (Michael Nardone).
This won’t be troubling any of the big hitters at the box office, if it gets any kind of wide release at all, but it’s a perfectly pleasant ensemble piece that reminds you of how inoffensive an unnecessary remake can be. I’ve been generous with my rating here, and that’s because it was just the right kind of simple entertainment I needed when I sat down for it.
Whisky Galore has been chosen as the closing night gala movie for this year, showing on 26th June at the Festival Theatre at 1715, and also Filmhouse 1 at 2045.
DIRECTOR: GILLIES MACKINNON
WRITER: PETER MCDOUGALL, BASED ON THE NOVEL BY COMPTON MACKENZIE
STARS: GREGOR FISHER, EDDIE IZZARD, JAMES COSMO, KEVIN GUTHRIE, SEAN BIGGERSTAFF, NAOMI BATTRICK, ELLIE KENDRICK, MICHAEL NARDONE
RUNTIME: 98 MINS APPROX