The Finest Hours(2016)
- RatedPG /GenreDrama, Thriller
Heads up, Trekkies. Everyone’s favourite captain, Chris Pine, is back to commandeer a ship. Only this time, it is not really a “ship”.
Instead of the USS Enterprise, he has a small Coast Guard motor lifeboat. Instead of “Space: The Final Frontier”, he has the stormy Atlantic waters off the Massachusetts coast. And instead of a crew of Starfleet officers, he has just three men with whom to rescue more than 30 stranded sailors.
No doubt, portraying the legendary man behind the greatest small boat rescue in United States Coast Guard history is just as glorious as taking on the adventures of James T. Kirk.
It is a shame, then, that this greatness does not manifest quite as effectively on screen.
Instead, 'The Finest Hours' feels more like a few moments of glory and two hours of numbness.
Based on a true story, 'The Finest Hours' follows the 1952 rescue of the oil tanker SS Pendleton by four Coast Guard crewmen on a small, motor lifeboat. The Pendleton has been ripped apart by a savage storm, and engineer Ray Sybert (Casey Affleck) leads the remaining 32 sailors as they attempt to keep the remaining half of the ship afloat long enough for help to arrive.
Back at the Massachusetts coast, Bernie Webber (Chris Pine) has been assigned to helm the rescue on a boat with capacity for just 12 men. Despite being recently engaged to his girlfriend (Holliday Grainger), the valiant Bernie is determined to steer the suicidal mission to success and rescue every life on the Pendleton, even if it means risking his own life and future in the process.
As far as vessel captains are concerned, gone is the cocky James T. Kirk we have become accustomed to. In 'The Finest Hours', Pine is a completely different man, retreating into Bernie's soft-spoken, shy and by-the-book nature with an endearing awkwardness. More impressively, the actor manages to balance these traits with his character's sturdy courage as he leads impressive rescue scenes.
If only the movie were all about Pine and the thrilling water sequences, because these do a fine job of winning us over on their own. Instead, 'The Finest Hours' drifts off in multiple directions, keeping somewhat afloat in the second storyline and smashing violently into dry territory in the third.
As Ray Sybert, Casey Affleck leads the scenes on board the Pendleton as the calm and analytical engineer. He is far from the most popular guy on board, but his straightforward nature and ability to keep his head above water make the character a convincing natural leader who rises at a time of crisis. Where the Pendleton storyline begins to falter has less to do with Sybert and more with the men surrounding him.
SHALLOW EVERYWHERE ELSE
The film tosses in tensions between Pendleton crew members with no development, only to resolve them abruptly as the story is wrapping up. Glimpses of friendship and camaraderie are wasted on characters whose names and faces we never remember. No surprises that when the climactic moments do arrive for the Pendleton crew, there is no emotional anchor to generate sufficient suspense.
But horrid tempo and dullness are really the bane of the third storyline. Bernie's romance with Miriam (Holliday Grainger) is what opens the film, taking on a painfully slow pace from the get-go. The love story is sweet at first, but dries up quickly when we realise that we are still heavily fixated on the couple 40 minutes in, and we remember that 'The Finest Hours' is supposed to be a rescue movie.
Once the film finally starts to become the maritime rescue adventure that it is supposed to be, the scenes on land shrivel up as a string of dry, thoroughly dispensable moments too hollow in their execution to have any real bearing on the film.
If anything keeps 'The Finest Hours' from falling apart during its dullest moments, it is the beautiful cinematography and old-fashioned 1950s charm. But even with a sturdy performance from Pine and several impressive sequences in the water, 'The Finest Hours' never dives beneath its visually impressive surface to thrill and move us as much as it should.
It is, unfortunately, fitting that the SS Pendleton is something of a metaphor for 'The Finest Hours' itself; terrible pacing and a dull love story are the waves that rip the film in two, dragging half of it down to the bottom of the ocean while Chris Pine and Casey Affleck keep the other half afloat. Barely.