The Finest Hours

Directed By: Craig Gillespie

Starring: Chris Pine, Casey Affleck, Ben Foster, Holliday Grainger, John Ortiz, and Eric Bana

The aftermath of Jonas is more of his old man winter plaguing us with bone-chilling cold this past week.  As I hit the movies, the weather served as a frosty reminder that I had been absent from the box office for a little while.  Fittingly, the first movie on deck for me was about being caught in the throes of a deadly winter storm.  Yes, I'm talking about The Finest Hours, the drama about a daring Coast Guard rescue that took place back in the 1950s.  Though the film arrives at a time when my expectations are lower than low (keeping in mind that Fifty Shades of Black arrives on this same weekend in January), I have to say that I did not walk out of the theater entirely underwhelmed or disappointed.  Not exuberant either, I left the theater recognizing that The Finest Hours is a decent film.

Boatswains Mate First Class Bernie Webber (Chris Pine) is a man of the US Coast Guard in Cape Cod.  Out on a double date with his friend, he becomes enchanted with a woman named Miriam (Holliday Grainger).  After dating for some time, Miriam takes the unusual step of asking Bernie for his hand in marriage, and he says yes.  Bernie plans to marry her on April 16th.  Given Coast Guard regulations, Bernie would prefer confirming the date with his commander Chief Warrant Officer Daniel Cluff (Eric Bana).  However, today is not the day for that.  A winter storm is crippling the region, and two oil tankers have been torn asunder by this fierce weather.  Cluff wants Bernie to take a team and a rescue boat out on the rough waters off the coast of Cape Cod and save the lives of the seamen out there in the dead of night.  Seaman Richard Livesey (Ben Foster), with whom Bernie has had some past tension, joins him.

Elsewhere, the oil tanker SS Pendleton is not dealing with the winter storm so well.  Expert crew member Ray Sybert (Casey Affleck) is holding everything together, but nature is an unstoppable force.  The storm splits the Pendleton in two.  Now, Sybert and the other crew members (John Ortiz, Graham McTavish, and Michael Raymond-James) must find a way to survive with half a ship on these rough waters until someone learns of their dire circumstances and rescues them.  It certainly doesn't help that the SS Fort Mercer is facing similarly dreary prospects and that the Coast Guard has devoted its full resources to saving the crew members of that tanker. It also doesn't help that tension and mistrust pervade the group, but Mr. Sybert steps up to the plate.

The Finest Hours
is an enjoyable flick by any measure, but it could have been much better.  This period drama is certainly entertaining and has rich source material on which it's based.  However, director Craig Gillespie goes for the glitz and glamor of special effects reminiscent of Titanic.  Showcasing the awesome power of Mother Nature is essential to establish the dangerous setting of the film, but it's only going to take the narrative so far.  Instead of focusing on the emotional tale of heroism, the crafty maneuvers the seamen of the SS Pendleton employed to survive, or the emotional love story at hand, Gillespie goes for the big budget moments showcasing the deadly storm.   Gillespie puts the weather and the damage done to the SS Pendleton on display to the extent that it takes away from the film.  All in all, The Finest Hours is an enjoyable adventure drama with a few too many visual effects.

This adaptation of the Pendleton rescue mission features genuine, earnest performances from all involved.  For his part as Bernie Webber, Star Trek star Chris Pine gives a very different performance from what he usually offers.  Introverted and heartfelt, Pine is anything but the charismatic, leading man we're accustomed to seeing on the big screen, and it's really refreshing.  Pine should challenge himself more in future roles like this.  For her part as his romantic interest and future wife Miriam, Holliday Grainger offers us a character with no cut cards that reminds me of her days on The Borgias (minus the incest).  In a period piece full of softer spoken characters, this is very welcome.  Finally, we have Casey Affleck giving us a quiet yet forceful performance as Ray Sybert.  It's what Affleck doesn't say that pushes this performance to the forefront of the pack.

It's clear that I have my gripes with The Finest Hours, but I still enjoyed it.  This adventurous disaster drama gets a 0.06% rating.  Have a few glasses of Sauvignon Blanc with this one.