The Finest Hours, 2016.
Directed by Craig Gillespie.
Starring Chris Pine, Casey Affleck, Ben Foster, Holliday Grainger, John Ortiz, Kyle Gallner, John Magaro, Graham McTavish, Michael Raymond-James, Beau Knapp, Josh Stewart, Abraham Benrubi, and Eric Bana.
The Coast Guard makes a daring rescue attempt off the coast of Cape Cod after a pair of oil tankers are destroyed during a blizzard in 1952.
The aggrandizing and melodramatic delivery of The Finest Hours will surely put some viewers off, but there’s no denying that the period piece, dramatic recounting of what the film describes as “The most daring rescue in U.S. Coast Guard history” is pulled off with elegance and grace. One of cinema’s greatest abilities is the power to transport us to different times and places, and while that is successfully captured here (whether it be with 1950s wardrobes or vehicles), it is the personality of the characters that remind us of a time when heroes didn’t complain about the dangers of the job they signed up for, but instead decided to go above and beyond what was expected.
Bernie Webber (played by a somewhat unrecognizable Chris Pine sporting a New England accent) is a hero, but is defined by his subtle, humble nature. When he isn’t flooring his small rescue team boat over the raging waves (more on this later) looking to decimate him and his small group, the cinematography is often closing in on his face to elicit numerous different emotions; he’s supposed to be preparing for marriage soon, he is clearly haunted by a recent past failed rescue attempt, and is contemplating the bold decision of saving all 32 members stranded on the oil tanker, dying trying at leaving no one behind,
Meanwhile, the 32 men stranded on the sinking oil tanker ripped straight in half by the vicious storm are less interesting (save for Casey Affleck, who turns in a great performance as the new captain of the ship that comes up with a crazy idea to keep the tanker afloat long enough for rescue assistance to reach them), but it definitely feels intentional. There is absolutely no way a script can properly characterize 32 people within two hours, so the writers mitigate this by frequently showcasing everyone working as a team, utilizing some impressive tracking shots that have characters relaying orders to one another (in the engine room and various other areas) as they rig the ship to hopefully stay alive. Visually it is sometimes confusing what is actually being done, but the teamwork approach truly works and allows you to care for all of the characters as a cohesive unit.
Unfortunately, The Finest Hours just had to dedicate a third of its running time to the cliché fiancé in distress subplot. As previously mentioned, Bernie is engaged, meaning that there are many scenes of his fiancée at the base of his coworkers, essentially just nagging them about the probability of their survival out there in extremely harsh conditions. Many of the scenes, if not all of them, are completely superfluous and boring, adding nothing to the story. It’s just a cheap way to garner some additional affection for Bernie, but it’s wholly unnecessary as Chris Pine already does a smashing job at portraying a likable hero that you want to see reach home.What’s most frustrating is that it is abundantly clear that time was taken away from the other far more interesting plot threads to make room for this forgettable nonsense. The Martian abandoned this crap altogether; it’s now nominated for Best Picture.
At least the action on display is fairly exciting, boasting visually stunning special effects that make the storm look rather devastating. In particular, the scene where the tanker is actually split in half is fairly memorable, as are all of the moments of the 32 men coming together as one to stay alive. Bernie also has to tread over numerous large waves in some very intense moments, but for whatever reason the scene goes on for around 10 minutes. I suppose the nature of the story writes the character into a corner as to what he can do as far as action goes, but you could only watch him successfully go over so many waves before you’re restlessly ready for the next spectacular bit.
The Finest Hours is also in 3D, which is basically just utilized for the traditional crashing of objects into focus, and adding some depth to the light snow and heavy rain. It’s really not worth forking over the extra cash for this version, as trading a few pointless effects for a loss of saturation in color isn’t really worth it, especially in this case.
Not all of the characters may be completely likable, the melodramatic tone and heavy-handed soundtrack will eventually become annoying, and the worried fiancé subplot is insufferable, but at sea The Finest Hours is completely serviceable popcorn entertainment with a plethora of veteran actors putting in good work.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★