Finest Hours, The Review

Title: The Finest Hours
Director: Craig Gillespie
Starring: Chris Pine,
Casey Affleck,
Ben Foster,
Holiday Grainger,
Eric Bana
Genre: Drama
Runtime: 1 Hour 57 mins
Music: Carter Burwell
Studio: Walt Disney Pictures
Certificate: US: PG-13
UK: 12A
Release Date: US: Jan 29 2016
UK: 19 Feb 2016
See If You Like: The Perfect Storm,
Poseidon (2006)
Disney’s rescue by numbers…

An undeniably stirring story of heroism and bravery in the face of adversity and terrifying conditions, The Finest Hours sadly ends up being a lacklustre, paint-by-numbers rescue film which isn’t without its charms, yet fails to do anything new, memorable, or exciting.

Chris Pine (Star Trek) stars as by-the-book coastguard Bernie Webber; a man who’s recently become attached to the love of his life (Holliday Grainger, The Borgias), is still reeling from leading a failed rescue attempt where a number of lives were lost, and finds himself tasked with taking a crew on a seemingly impossible mission, over unbelievably treacherous seas, to rescue the crew of a doomed, sinking, ripped-in-half, tanker which is battling time, the weather, and divisions within its own crew.

Co-leading as the tanker’s chief engineer Casey Affleck (currently on the big screen in Triple 9) helps bring together a divided crew in an attempt to salvage what’s left of their tanker, and buy some time while they hold out in hopes of a rescue.

Needless to say it’s far from smooth sailing on board either the sinking tanker or the rescue boat; Bernie’s got a seemingly suicidal journey just to find what’s left of the tanker, and aboard the tanker itself they’re battling incoming water, failing systems, raging seas, and the struggles of jerry-rigging a hand-made steering system. All things which should come with a huge amount of tension an awe, yet never amount to more than a shrug as not only is it obvious where the film will head (wouldn’t be much of a rescue story if at least some of the tanker’s crew didn’t survive), but the dangerous and heroic elements aren’t emphasised enough, and simply fall to repetitive versions of “that’s a big wave isn’t it?”

Pacing is off as well, as while you may expect a slow start to a movie like The Finest Hours, we spend too long with Bernie’s romantic plot before anything important happens and too long with his other half looking worried at the coastguard station; barring a couple of brilliantly acted scenes between Holliday and Eric Bana’s station commander where she tearfully asks him to call the men back as they’ve been sent out to die, there’s little going on and it simply feels like dead time; time which would’ve been far better spent extending the scenes on either the rescue boat, or the tanker, and exploring more of the fear and adversity these men went through.

Pine does a great job as the uneasy by-the-book Bernie (appearing far more reserved and awkward than usual, and carrying his stronger moments with ease), and Casey Affleck is as strong as ever as the intuitive engineer/de facto leader aboard the tanker. Holliday Grainger also does a sterling job as Bernie’s other half Miriam (putting in a performance which elevates her character above the ‘worried woman’ the script called for), and former Hulk Eric Bana delivers a believable showing in the small role of the out-of-his-depth station commander.

Supporting stars also fare well, and The Finest Hours is littered with faces you’ll recognise; Ben Foster (Contraband); John Ortiz (Silver Linings Playbook); Kyle Wallner (American Sniper); Graham McTavish (The Hobbit), Beau Knapp (Southpaw), Abraham Benrubi (Bosch), and Josh Stewart (The Dark Knight Rises); all put in appearances, meaning there’s a very strong cast, and decent actor, behind every role.

Effects-wise Finest Hours fares pretty well too as, a few iffy green-screen moments aside, things generally look great; the initial ‘wow-shot’ of the tanker being ripped in half, and watching the other half drift away/sink, is startlingly good, and despite a number of clichés, the predictability of the whole affair, and a few rather cheesy moments/pieces of dialogue, Craig Gillespie has clearly done a decent job of directing.

So, while it’s not a bad film by any means, The Finest Hours simply isn’t strong enough to remain memorable. It’s a strong and stirring story, but one which doesn’t translate to the big screen here as it lacks tension and the element of danger which makes a disaster/rescue movie such as this exciting. There is potential, and it’s worth catching when it eventually drops to TV viewing, but sadly The Finest Hours isn’t an essential cinema watch.

Matt Wheeldon@TheMattWheeldon.

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Matt Wheeldon is the Founder, and Editor in Chief of Good Film Guide. He still refers to the cinema as "the pictures", and has what some would describe as a misguided appreciation for Waterworld.