The 400-Word Review: The Finest Hours
By Sean Collier
February 2, 2016
An old-Hollywood wistfulness hangs over The Finest Hours, the seafaring drama from Disney and director Craig Gillespie. The film might’ve been a stark, gritty nail-biter in the mold of far too many recent adaptations of true events; instead, we open with a lovely 1950s love story and get to the disaster in due time.
Bernie Webber (Chris Pine), a Coast Guard sailor stationed along Cape Cod, is in the process of wooing Miriam (Holliday Grainger). The townsfolk aren’t too fond of Webber; a stickler for procedure, he failed to save some local lives during a bad storm a year prior in an incident that led to a shakeup among the local military bigwigs. Miriam’s charmed, however, and proposes marriage herself; as a formality, Webber feels the need to ask his commanding officer, Chief Daniel Cluff (Eric Bana) for permission.
As he works up the courage, a blizzard hits. Separately, we meet the hardscrabble crew of the oil rig Pendleton; dozens of sailors with big personalities man the ship, but awkward engine-room dweller Ray Sybert (Casey Affleck) keeps things running. When the storm arrives, though, the ship is ripped in half — with the captain’s quarters on the other side. The crew on Affleck’s side manages to rig up a makeshift radio and learns that another nearby ship has also been torn apart and all nearby Coast Guard ships are en route to that vessel.
By the time Cluff learns about the second ship, he’s sent his best men after the first. That leaves Webber and a misfit crew to try to make their way to the ailing Pendleton in the midst of a blizzard — and all the old sea dogs have serious doubts as to Webber’s chances of surviving the ordeal.
Affleck and Ben Foster (as one of Pine’s crew) serve as character-actor counterpoint to the glamour brought by Pine and Grainger; before things go wrong, The Finest Hours is a romance full of movie stars, but when the storm hits, it becomes a tense action film. Gillespie deftly transitions from the Pendleton to shore (and later to Webber’s rescue mission), keeping the film from falling into the doomed grind of many seafaring flicks; meanwhile, Javier Aguirresarobe’s photography manages to capture dynamic, stark images in the midst of sea and storm. The Finest Hours is far from a classic, but it’s one of the better examples of its subgenre.
My Rating: 8/10
Sean Collier is the Associate Editor of Pittsburgh Magazine and a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association. Read more from Sean at pittsburghmagazine.com/afterdark