The Finest Hours - Review

PG-13  |  117 min  |  Action, Drama, History
Review - Matt Mungle

**In theaters January 29th 2016**

SynopsisThe 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.

Review: Some stories are worth telling. Especially the ones where human endeavor and a monumental spirit of fortitude overcome even the most extreme circumstances. How these stories are told is the main obstacle. Incredible effects and lines that work only in edited trailer segments often are not enough. Sadly this is not Disney's finest hour.

Incredible is a good word to describe what Bernie Webber (Chris Pine) accomplished on the stormy February night. It is to this day the most daring and succesful Coast Guard small boat rescue mission ever. In one boat you have Webber and his small band of faithful rescuers. In the other you have Ray Sybert (Casey Affleck) and his crew of stranded oilers; their tanker having been ravaged by the storm. Both group of men fighting mounting odds to stay alive. Back on shore is Webber's fiancé Miriam (Holliday Grainger) and members of the small fishing village willing them all to return safely. 

Let us talk first about what does work in this film for there are elements that are worthy of the big screen experience. All of these take place in the water. The waves and oceanic effects are the best I have seen. The ferocious nature of a storm at sea has to be palpable and this one is times ten. The other strong scenes take place on the stranded oil tanker. The intricate mechanics of the inner workings make a steel and iron stage for the men to walk on. It has elements of Poseidon Adventure and Titanic. The acting on that tanker is the most dramatic of any in the film. These are gritty men of action and for many the act of sitting and waiting is a fate worse than death. 

What does not work and sinks this film faster than a midnight squall is the overly staged and predictable dialogue and poor use of dramatic timing and direction. The relationship between Bernie and Miriam is intended to make us long for his safe return. It is meant to ground us to his character and elevate the peril. But instead it becomes a distraction. You almost do not like Miriam. Her strong female tenacity in the face of hardened sea men doesn't come across as praise worthy but annoying. She is an outsider trying to navigate a man's terrain. It does not play out well because it makes the script have to pander to her and make her a principal actor. 

Also, Pine is so much better as the cocky self assured Captain Kirk than the self deprecating rule follower we see here. Webber is a nautical savant in the way he delivers his lines and walks stiffly through each scene. What is intended as humble and simplistic ends up as some sort of disorder. We often see Bernie in a trance like state trying to become one with the water and storm. Again, maybe that was the real Webber but for a block buster film it isn't a good look. The story should have been the main focus. 

As savage and incredible as the waves and ocean looked it lost its effects on the men out in it. This was a brutal storm in sub temperatures yet seldom do the men look cold realistically. I wanted more blue skin tones and icicles clinging to beards. More shivering and teeth chattering. They talked and moved as if none of this was a bother. Only near the end did they try and slip in a moment where the men looked miserable and on the brink of dying. But it was too little and much too late. 

THE FINEST HOURS is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of peril. There are some seriously dramatic moments so best for those over 13 or 14. But rest assured that there is nothing at all in the way of violence, language or any adult content. The men and women act honorably and the message of sacrifice and doing the job you are given is up-lifting. You will be amazed by the true story and shake your head in bewilderment. The outcome of the film should in no way detract from what these men, Bernie in particular, accomplished. I give it 2.5 out of 5 snow banks. A story worth telling, but telling better. 

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