The Finest Hours
Craig Gillespie’s The Finest Hours is the fictionalised account of a true life tale involving the Coast Guard’s daring rescue of the crew of a doomed oil tanker in 1952.
I’m not overly familiar with this story but that doesn’t really matter for the purposes of this film as it should hold together in how it tells the story. One thing that really struck me about this is that the whole thing is nothing short of a miracle. From all the luck and coincidence it took to get the right people to the right place it feels unbelievable when watching it. I suppose it’s accurate that the truth is stranger than fiction as this story did really happen and it definitely is a story worth telling.
The film holds together pretty well for the most part with a good sense of pacing and enough going on to keep me interested most of the time. It does take a while to get going and some of the editing feels a but sloppy. Nothing about it will surprise you either but beyond that it is a very enjoyable story that is well told.
Bernie Webber (Chris Pine) is the focus here and Pine does a really good job. I like how he plays Bernie as being unassertive and lacking confidence in the beginning while having all of this potential buried beneath the surface. His major problem is that he is around so much larger personalities such as his boss, Daniel Cluff (Eric Bana) who constantly overpower and intimidate him simply by being who they are.
Having Bernie gain agency and respect as the film progresses works really well and gives him a defined character arc to follow. He has all the potential he needs but just needs something to force that to come out in him. He always conducts himself bravely and moves forward despite his fear.
Much of the film is taken up by the love story between Bernie and Miriam (Holliday Grainger). She is a character who seems to tick all the boxes of a love interest without ever being hugely interesting in her own right. She is really assertive which offers a solid contrast to Bernie who isn’t in the beginning but beyond that there isn’t much to her. Grainger is really good at the role and works well with what she is given. It helps that she and Pine have a lot of chemistry and are able to sell the fairly standard love story.
Casey Affleck’s Ray Sybert leads the crew of the oil tanker and does everything he can to keep them alive long enough to be rescued. It’s easy to believe that he is respected by the other men as Affleck brings across his knowledge and strength well. He interacts well with the other members of his crew such as Graham McTavish’ Frank Fauteux and creates someone worth rooting for.
The sequence that finds the oil tanker split in two was visually stunning to watch. Everything from the movements to the damage came across as large scale and dangerous. Later efforts from the crew to keep themselves alive also created some compelling visuals.
Bernie’s attempt to reach them in really choppy seas with a small boat was also really tense. The massive waves contrasted well with the small boat and created a real sense of peril. One thing the film did well was showing just how much danger people were in and how unforgiving the open sea could be in that sort of weather.
There were some odd choices in terms of focus for this film. I felt that the rescue attempt should have been the focus but the film kept returning to Miriam’s less significant -relatively speaking- problems. Watching people fight for their lives against the elements then cutting to a car stuck in a ditch is a really odd break in the action as the two situations are nowhere near comparable.
An enjoyable story that doesn’t offer too many surprises but manages to remain somewhat compelling through solid writing and good acting. Some of the editing is choppy and the early sections are slow but once it gets going it’s a lot of fun and has some really great visuals that show how dangerous being at sea can be.
• the excellent visuals
• strong performances from the entire cast
• the decent pacing throughout
• a lack of focus in some areas
• the fairly standard love story