Review: The Finest Hours Misses The Human Element In A Disaster Movie
Title: The Finest Hours
Director: Craig Gillespie
Screenwriter: Scott Silver (screenplay), Paul Tamasy (screenplay), Eric Johnson (screenplay), Casey Sherman (book), and Michael J. Tougias (book)
Principal Cast: Chris Pine, Holliday Grainger, Casey Affleck, Ben Foster, Kyle Gallner, and Eric Bana
Summary: The Coast Guard makes a daring rescue attempt off the coast of Cape Cod after a pair of oil tankers are destroyed during a blizzard in 1952.
This is the second movie in as many weeks that are based on a true story of people going up against amazing odds and coming out in the end by the skin of their teeth. This seems like an odd time to release a movie like this but then again 13 Hours wasn’t very good. I knew very little about The Finest Hours aside from “it’s about the coast guard and has Chris Pine in it”. I did a quick IMDB check before the movie started but I didn’t do too much research before going in. I suppose this makes it one of the rare times when I went into a “based on a true story” scenario and didn’t know the ending.
The Finest Hours has some pretty impressive special effects and sets up some tense moments but seems to lack the human element that makes disaster movies great.
The movie I kept going back to as I watched this one was The Perfect Storm, only I felt like these characters were a lot more relatable than everyone else. It’s the winter of 1952 and a terrible storm has snapped not one, but two, oil freighters in half off the coast of Cape Cod. A large group of coast guards are sent out to help one of the freighters but the second freighter is virtually unknown. We find out that the boat has snapped in half told by a character trying to go to the bridge to talk to the captain and nearly walking off the boat as he watches the front half of the boat vanish into the water. Ray (Casey Affleck) is an engineer who is suddenly the defacto leader of the second half of the boat which is still standing but slowly filling with water leaving them a few hours for someone to find them. Bernie Webber (Chris Pine) is a coast guard officer sent out on a small boat with three other men (Ben Foster, Kyle Gallner, John Magaro) to try and get to the boat before 30+ men lose their lives.
All of this sounds like it would make for an awesome movie, and the moments where The Finest Hours works it works very well. I enjoyed Casey Affleck’s Ray the most, a man who is in no way a leader thrown into a leadership position as he tries to figure out a way to save all of these men’s lives. The moment when the small boat that Pine and his three coworkers are on have to try and make it out of the harbor and into the open ocean is a marvel of special effects as this tiny boat is thrown around helplessly. We know that there are thirty men on the boat they are trying to rescue and the tiny boat looks like it might hold half of that. All of this should mean that you’re wondering how they are going to pull this rescue off.
This is where the movie ultimately stumbles because drama like this can only work if you truly care about the people that you are watching. The pacing is very strange and there are long lulls in between moments as we watch various forms of 1950’s romance. If you’re there to watch a boat get thrown across giant waves then you’re going to be sorely disappointed because the scene is long but not long enough to drag you to the theater. This might be a nitpick but the Atlantic Ocean is cold and it’s the middle of winter but no one ever comments on the weather or looks like they are about to succumb to hypothermia. It made the sense of danger fade a bit too much and made the strange pacing even more apparent.
The Finest Hours might be telling a very heroic true story, but there isn’t enough humanity to make up for the strange pacing and the long moments where nothing happens. There are a few good performances (Casey Affleck should be in more movies) but they aren’t enough to make this one anything more than a rental or wait for it to turn up on Netflix.