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The 400-Word Review: The Finest Hours

By Sean Collier

February 2, 2016

I only know how to captain spaceships!

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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.




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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


     


 
 

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