Chris Pine reportedly said that The Finest Hours was one of his most difficult shoots to date. It certainly appeared that way with the cast of both the sinking tanker and the rescue team spending hours in cold wet conditions. Even on a soundstage, that is grueling work.
Based on the true story of the U.S. Coast Guards who braved a winter storm to rescue the crew of a sinking ship, the film looks promising. The story is reportedly the most daring Coast Guard rescue in U.S. history and the elements are all there for a thrilling and engaging film.
However, the affect of Disney can be felt everywhere in this film. Starting with an unnecessary romance between Pine’s Bernie Webber and Holliday Grainger’s Miriam, director Craig Gillespie tries to instill some romantic drama into Pine’s story. While the romance is apparently true, it doesn’t float the boat, nor aid it, in the film.
Meanwhile, the oil tanker, SS Pendleton has been snapped in half. The bow of the ship, along with the captain, sinks. Miraculously the stern, which houses the engines manages to stay afloat. Stranded and taking on water, the remaining crew falls into a mutinous mob before Casey Affleck’s Ray Sybert reluctantly assumes command. Also, on the boat is the stolid and stalwart Graham McTavish, who is notable simply for his commanding presence, and fans will recognize him from The Hobbit films and the TV series Outlander.
However, the sense of danger leaks out as the film dances back to the pointless relationship issues between Pine and Grainger. Like tapping the breaks, the story is jolted out of a high stakes situation to something eminently more mundane.
It takes time to rebuild the real drama and get invested once more.
As a winter storm batters the Eastern Seaboard, we discover that the Pendleton is not the only ship in danger. In fact, its communication systems all but failed. They eventually appear on the Coast Guard’s radar and a crew is mustered by Eric Bana. After some back and forth between Bana and Pine, which stalls the film further, the rescue crew attempts the winter storm to find the missing ship.
The film’s “finest” moments are when Pine and his crew set out. Gillespie proves that he knows how to build tension and transport the audience from their seats to the sea. The continual spray of icy Atlantic is nearly tangible through the screen.
Pine reveals that he’s capable of handling a character that lacks swagger but retains all the attributes of an American hero. Fans of his Captain Kirk will be surprised and delighted to see this role, but true “Pine Nuts” will already know that he’s capable of more than just commanding a Star Fleet ship.
The use of 3D has little effect on this film and, strangely, the 3D glasses made the screen appear dark. Whether this was due to a theater technicality or an actual issue with the film, some of the action was difficult to see. It was like trying to watch the film with sunglasses on in a dim room.
Where the film lagged, however, were the scenes with Grainger. While she did a fine job with her role, and indeed Miriam’s part would make a fascinating story on its own, the love story detracted from the main thrust of the film. This is not a romance but an action-adventure rescue. It does not need a romantic element. It slowed the entire film down, which was a waste after being built up with the action sequences. Not to mention the “Disney-fication” of the story made the film feel tamer than it should have been. Clearly this film is catered toward younger or softhearted audiences. It could use a bit more grit and perhaps more Perfect Storm drama.
In the end, The Finest Hours goes belly-up.
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