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Whisky Galore! (4 stars)

EIFF 2016: Successful remake of the Ealing favourite, with Eddie Izzard and Gregor Fisher

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Whisky Galore!

Adapted from the novel by Compton MacKenzie, itself based on true events, the 1949 Ealing comedy Whisky Galore! is a short, sprightly trifle about wily Scots conspiring to outwit the officious English. This 2016 reimagining, written by Peter McDougall and directed by Gillies MacKinnon (Hideous Kinky), makes substantial changes while staying true to the subtle charm of the original film.

When a stranded ship washes up on nearby rocks, the villagers of the tiny Scottish island of Todday are desperate to plunder the onboard cargo of whisky, particularly since their island is perilously close to being without booze due to wartime prohibitions. The pompous Captain Wagget (Eddie Izzard) is keen to thwart all attempts to liberate the amber nectar, while local hero Macroon (Gregor Fisher) leads ingenious endeavours to befuddle the military’s efforts.

This fresh take on Whisky Galore! makes good use of an ideal location in Portsoy, Aberdeenshire and is crisply shot by Nigel Willoughby, with a jaunty Patrick Doyle score. But the real star is McDougall’s script – wry and acerbic without ever resorting to crude caricatures. A newly added subplot, alluding to a missing box of official secrets detailing royal connections to Nazism, is skillfully integrated, although providing a satisfying resolution to the multiple plotlines proves to be MacKinnon’s undoing in a rather low-key finale.

The very opposite of the whimsical tartan tat of many Scottish comedy productions, Whisky Galore! has the rare feel of a film made by Scots for Scots, an uncommon fidelity which may prove costly in terms of attracting an international audience. Yet, as with Bill Forsyth’s best work, the film’s bonhomie might just have universal appeal; such gentle humour may be lost on some, but Whisky Galore! offers a true taste of Scotland that’s well worth acquiring.

Screened on Sun 26 Jun as part of the Edinburgh International Film Festival 2016. General release TBC.

Whisky Galore!

  • 4 stars
  • 2016
  • UK
  • 100 min
  • 12A
  • Directed by: Gillies MacKinnon
  • Cast: Gregor Fisher, Eddie Izzard, James Cosmo, Kevin Guthrie, Sean Biggerstaff, Naomi Battrick, Ellie Kendrick

A new version of the 1949 film about the inhabitants of Todday, who are running out of their whisky ration when a cargo ship runs aground on the island.

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