THE FINEST HOURS
Disney’s latest is an adequate but not awe-inspiring telling of Coast Guard heroics
WATCH THE TRAILER(S) HERE:
He quickly discovers his request will have to wait, however, once a distress call comes in across the radio saying an oil tanker, the SS Mercer, has been split in two by a colossal storm just off the coast. Of course, that would be a problem in and of itself if it weren’t for the fact that a second oil tanker, the SS Pendleton, has suffered a similar fate – and taken its captain down to the bottom of the ocean’s depths in the process. Ray Sybert (Casey Affleck), has a plan to keep the ship from sinking – but he’s running out of time to do so. Going out to save the crew of the Pendleton in these conditions is seemingly nothing short of a suicide mission, yet Cluff – who has yet to win the hearts of his unit – sends Bernie out in the storm anyway. And being the company man determined to always do the right thing, Bernie goes, taking volunteers Richard Livesey (Ben Foster), Andy Fitzgerald (Kyle Gallner) and Ervin Maske (John Magaro) with him.
What follows is what constitutes what is widely considered the greatest small boat mission in the history of the Coast Guard to this day …
For a film that wants you to be enthralled with the idea of perseverance and romance, The Finest Hours sure doesn’t seem to be concerned with actually delivering it on a compelling level until very late in the film. Chris Pine nails being a working schlub so much that he, well, feels like a working schlub you have a hard time investing in emotionally. Sure he’s a nice enough guy it seems, but there is nothing inherently compelling – either on a surface level or deep-seeded in his emotions – that really makes you go “I feel him.” This wouldn’t be such an issue if Holliday Grainger wasn’t so fully committed to her role that she becomes the most intriguing figure in the film – and her only time on the water comes early and uneventfully. She steals the film as its emotional center even though her character is essentially reduced to being a headstrong woman who pines for her guy’s safe return home, so it shouldn’t be surprising that it’s fairly disappointing, really, that Pine’s understated performance actually, well, drags. Throw in Bana’s rather banal, maybe-it’s-supposed-to-be-comic-relief? performance as the overmatched Cluff and the only thing compelling about the finest hours is watching how things play out versus caring about why.
Casey Affleck fortunately provides a compelling character with subtle nuances to make him a guy you want to root for, making sure Sybert doesn’t fall victim of the trope of “he’s forced into this, now let’s heavy-handedly show you how he responds.” He provides a much-needed dosage of testosterone-fueled gumption, which is sorely lacking. The visuals of the film also do a solid job of keeping your attention as you watch the events unfold, which in turn give Affleck the best scenes to move things along.
Other than that, though, you have too many elements that feel a bit stale to make the film rise above (no pun intended) “average” filmmaking. There’s the happy ship guy, the near-mutiny guys who have to learn the hard way to let the level-headed guy (Affleck) take charge, there’s the aforementioned guy who’s in charge who shouldn’t be (Bana) and just a general sense of 50s camp that doesn’t feel like nostalgia, but just pure camp. Sure, your grandparents will likely love it, but unless you’re a hopeless romantic, it’s not exactly Titanic or The Poseidon Adventure that they’re crafting here. I don’t mean to make it sound like I’m knocking the movie as it is quite watchable … It’s just that once you’ve finished the voyage, you can’t help but feel like there was something more that could have been.
A pure Disney movie at its best and worst moments, The Finest Hours isn’t exactly the best two hour jaunt into the dangerous seas, but it’s got enough solid components to entertain the average moviegoer once the tide starts to come in.