Directed by Craig Gillespie. Produced by Dorothy Aufiero and James Whitaker. Written by Eric Johnson, Scott Silver, and Paul Tamasy. Release date: January 29, 2016.
Theoretically a smash hit but practically only a moderate success, The Finest Hours is a film that probably should have been better than it wound up being. With a pretty solid cast, a true-to-life story that’s worth telling, and Disney‘s money backing the project, there’s no reason that The Finest Hours shouldn’t be competing in the summer months as a classier version of something like, say, San Andreas. But when you hire the director of Million Dollar Arm, Craig Gillespie, to do it, and you let Chris Pine be your leading actor, you’re going to run into some problems.
The film is a “based on a true story” depiction of an event in 1952 when an oil tanker got split in half and the only form of rescue its crew could hope for came from Bernard Webber (Pine) and three other individuals on a boat that was built for 12 people. Oh, and there’s a gigantic storm, one which made Bernard’s attempt to rescue these individuals seem more like a suicide mission than an accomplishable quest. You should be able to see, already, how this could turn into a pretty solid film.
We follow three groups as the film unwinds. The first is Bernard and his crew as they brave the storm and just to try to get to the ship, let alone rescue everyone aboard. The next group consists of the individuals on the stranded ship as they try not to sink. Casey Affleck‘s Ray Sybert becomes the de facto leader, as he’s the only one willing to come up with any semblance of a plan. Finally, we follow Bernard’s wife-to-be, Miriam (Holliday Grainger), as she unsuccessfully tries to get the commanding officer (Eric Bana) to call Bernard back.
Mostly, though, we follow those at sea. Bernard’s storyline sees him monotonously brave wave after wave as he acts like a blind squirrel trying to find a nut. Sybert’s story is just as repetitive as he and the crew try to figure out various ways to keep their ship afloat just as long as humanly possible. Therein lies the film’s first problem: it does the same thing over and over again, eventually boring the audience into submission.
The Finest Hours is a movie whose potential you can clearly see, but whose execution falters in key spots, leading to a lackluster viewing experience.
More of an issue is how little we get to know or care about any of the individuals involved. Bernard and Miriam share two scenes together – a first date and a marriage proposal – before he’s whisked out to sea, and during the entire time he’s out there I don’t think he mentions her name once. Another character calls out Ray Sybert’s complete lack of characterization, to which he responds with a nonchalant “I don’t like talking about it.” Well, then, how are we supposed to start caring about these individuals beyond the inherent “they’re human beings who don’t deserve to die” aspect?
The Finest Hours also lacks any truly memorable or big moments that will allow us to remember it even a few hours after it ends. It tries to build up both the rescue and going “over the bar” – a submerged hill that creates giant waves – but neither of these things feels particularly special. Maybe it’s the lack of interesting characters, or maybe it’s because the film doesn’t do anything different from any other “sea rescue” movies.
Chris Pine is not good in this sort of role, and he predictably falters as the lead of The Finest Hours. His strengths lie in wacky supporting roles – see: Stretch, Horrible Bosses 2, and Smokin’ Aces – and when he’s tasked with playing a lead in something like this, he fails. For some reason, all of his charm and charisma goes out the window when he’s trying to act “seriously.” It’s even worse when the film goes for schmaltz because it never feels like it earns it, and Pine’s block-of-wood performance is a large part as to why. The lack of characterization is the other.
The Finest Hours is a movie whose potential you can clearly see, but whose execution falters in key spots, leading to a lackluster viewing experience. This is a true story of heroic people, but the movie fails to live up to them or their tale. Most of it is repetitive and dull, the “big” moments aren’t anywhere near important or memorable enough, there’s barely any characterization, and Chris Pine needs to stay far away from these roles – he just doesn’t work as a leading man. It’s nowhere near the worst thing out there, but it should fill you with awe, not yawns.
Bottom Line: The Finest Hours should have been better than this, but thanks to a few key faults it wound up as a lackluster version of a heroic true story.
Recommendation: If you choose to see The Finest Hours – which you shouldn’t, even though it’s not awful – skip the 3D version. Trust me.[rating=2]