“They say you have to go out, but they don’t say you have to come back in..”
On Feb. 18, 1952, a massive storm splits the SS Pendleton in two, trapping more than 30 sailors inside the tanker’s sinking stern. Engineer Ray Sybert bravely takes charge to organize a strategy for his fellow survivors. As word of the disaster reaches the Coast Guard in Chatham, Mass., Chief Warrant Officer Daniel Cluff orders a daring rescue mission. Despite the ferocious weather, coxswain Bernie Webber takes three men on a lifeboat to try and save the crew against seemingly impossible odds.
Overcoming adversity has long since been a plot device embedded in film. It is the single most used device, and rightly so, who doesn’t want to see mere mortals overcoming insurmountable odds. Audiences often go to the movies to be regaled with tales of triumph, that dazzle and entertain them. They want the heroes modest, the stories grand, and the stakes high. Disney’s The Finest Hours is the all of this an more. Based on a true tale of heroing efforts from incredibly brave men, The Finest Hours does well to provide viewers with all the unsettling ooh and ahh moments they beckon for, but somehow feels like three different films in the process. This is not likely to wow anyone with it’s simple linear story. Much like the events they are portraying, the plot is a very straightforward procedural that lacks any flash, and settles for a sort of colorless thorough fair that allows you to just ride the wave from start to finish. In essence, it is a very bland, predictable, and satisfying family friendly movie
Visually, The Finest Hours, is quite an ambitious feat. Creating a visually striking disastrous backdrop, complete with wildly vicious CG waves, and massive swells overtaking monstrous ships. Not a cent was wasted and the film is nothing if it’s not beautiful. In a way, this had no other choice but to go big cinematically, since it rests on it’s laurels in terms of story. There is not a single moment of real controversy, it was just a group of men, doing brave things that they were ordered to do. The movie spends almost it’s entire run time showcasing the utter humility and bravery these men showed in the face of complete uncertainty. There is this sort of faith wave that sweeps up the characters, hugging them tightly in this safe little story blanket. This is not a challenging tale to tell as it is possibly the most simple version of facts ever told. What you see is exactly what you get here, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. This is through and through a classic Disney style story, meant to appeal to mass audiences, falling right into the fold between big hollywood blockbuster, and award seeking arthouse piece. It’s so run of the mill that you’ll get lost in it’s simplicity and its stunning visuals, to a point where the story will lose some of it’s meaning.
Chris Pine, checks his personality at the door, instead turning in the most stoic, tightlipped performance we have ever seen from him. This film is full of dirt kicking awe schucks moments, and for sailors, these guys are extremely mild tempered and modest. Understanding the times from which this film is set in, this is almost a saturday cartoon, or a lavish hallmark style movie in it’s toned down, very child friendly dialogue that makes these characters disingenuous at times. Pine does all he can with a very limited material. He actually turns in quite a serviceable performance in spite of the script issues presented. What is perplexing, is the utter lack of respect Ben Foster is seemingly treated with. Foster’s role is so depressingly subdued, he barely speaks a word of dialogue, and is left to radiate emotion through glances and body language. Thankfully Foster is a talented as he is, he finds a way to bring a certain poetic strength to his character that a lesser performer would not have been capable of. Then there is Casey Affleck, who makes this movie go. He is the driving force and becomes all that is interesting. He plays this outcasted, terrified, brilliant and almost hermit like individual that becomes this visceral steadfast hero to perfection. Affleck simply saves this film from complete monotony, and is the backbone holding the story together keeping it afloat.
The Finest Hours is an honest to goodness hoke fest, but it’s self aware enough to know this, and manages to maintain enough focus to allow its actors to keep the it from falling into camp. The film is choppy at times, and sort of confusingly told, in that it it’s basically three simultaneous stories, but one of those stores is utterly useless, and serves as little more than a sad attempt at emotional manipulation. Throughout the film they continue to cut back to Pine’s love interest played by Holliday Grainger, and it does a complete disservice to the pacing. If not for these laggy moments of pure fluff, the film could have been much more tight and compact allowing for a more gratifying pace. Instead we are force fed a love story that plays as more obnoxious and annoying than emotionally seizing. The films thrives in it’s moments at sea. With one of it’s three running plot lines providing the tale of heroism from the men of the coast guard refusing to quit on their mission, and the final tale providing us with an intense pressure cooker situation aboard a tanker split in half, The Finest Hours is two-thirds a solid film. This is a very respectful, and very old fashioned telling of a heroic event, and in that regard, the film succeeds. It is at times exciting, and constantly visually satisfying. This is a directly melodramatic story, steeped in wholesomeness, that is uneven at times, but ultimately achieves what it sets out to do. The Finest Hours allows Pine and Affleck to bring it ashore, and provides and exciting rescue story, void of subtlety, but full of heart and good intentions.
3.1/5 Not Bad Bro