Vital Heroics; Slightly Undersold: A Review of ‘The Finest Hours’

Posted in Movies, Theatrical by - January 30, 2016
Vital Heroics; Slightly Undersold: A Review of ‘The Finest Hours’

There are some amazing acts of heroism that we are mostly oblivious too happening all around us.

The Finest Hours takes us into the drama and the human cost of the rescue by men in the Coast Guard who have to go out, but never have to come back in with some solid emotional aplomb but with some visual effects that never really get us engaged throughout.

It’s February 1952 and a massive nor’easter is pummelling the New England coastline and causing havoc for any ship caught in its wake including the SS Pendleton bound for the port of Boston that quite literally gets ripped in two with over 30 sailors trapped in the stern.  First Assistant Engineer Ray Sebert (Casey Affleck) realizes that he has to take charge in order for them all to survive and stay afloat in order to get saved.  When word of the disaster reaches the shore, Bernie Webber (Chris Pine) is ordered to defy the odds and take a crew on a small ill equipped ship to execute a rescue that no one thinks is possible.

Ray Sybert (Casey Affleck) struggles to keep his ship, the SS Pendleton, from sinking in Disney's THE FINEST HOURS, the heroic action-thirller presented in Digital 3D (TM) and IMAX(c) 3D based on the extraordinary true story of the most daring rescue in the history of the Coast Guard.

A tense and emotional ride of a movie, The Finest Hours manages to capture the emotional drama of the lives of these men in the Coast Guard but ultimately feels a little lacking thanks to some overdone special effects that take us out of the emotional core of the narrative.

Director Craig Gillespie is certainly a strong enough hand to get a story from beginning to end as The Finest Hours plays out with a fairly natural flow to it all but it all feels a little too sterile.  With production design that was overly concerned with making it feel like the 1950’s, visual effects that never connected because they mostly took place at night and a 3D up conversion that was just kind of terrible all subtract from the overall experience.  If not for some understatedly strong performance throughout the film, this easily could have washed out to sea as yet another forgettable piece of cinema.

Chris Pine successfully shows his range in ditching the William Shatner swagger that has begun to infuse his Star Trek performances and plays a brave but emotionally sheltered and fragile guy as he makes Bernie come to life as a likeable and potentially tragic cinematic hero.  Holliday Granger in her first studio leading role manages to match him note for note, as a supremely strong woman in a time where it just wasn’t necessarily done, and their romantic chemistry while a little awkward at times was actually pretty genuine for the times as he played it shy and she was the stronger of the two while the likes of Eric Bana and Ben Foster came through with some solid color in supporting roles.  While Casey Affleck was his stalwart Chris-Pine-and-Holliday-Grainger-in-The-Finest-Hoursself, the material was just a little lacking for him to get any genuine moments as most of his big scenes came against a wave crashing against the ship or the leak in the hull that they just can’t plug.

All in all, there is nothing wrong with The Finest Hours and it makes for an effective true to life adventure thriller, however the experience will be just the same if you watch it at home in 2D or if you may to see it AVX/IMAX in 3D.

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David Voigt, has been a lover of cinema all his life and an actual underpaid critic for a solid 5 years covering everything that the city of Toronto has to offer. He was a content manager in video distribution industry before that and his love of all things cinema goes back to his first moments in awe looking up at the big screen. His 12 years of experience on the home entertainment side of the business have provided him with a unique view on what is worth spending your hard earned entertainment dollars on. Combine that with his unquestioned love of film, David should be your only stop to find out about the best in film, not only in Toronto, but worldwide.