Movie Review: THE FINEST HOURS (2016)

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the_finest_hoursTHE FINEST HOURS (USA 2016) **
Directed by Craig Gillespie

Starring: Chris Pine, Holliday Grainger, Casey Affleck

Review by Gilbert Seah

Following hot on the heels (or rather on the keel) of Ron Howard’s recently released sea adventure, the critically and box-office flop IN THE HEART OF THE SEA, THE FINEST HOURS follows a crew of men fighting the elements, which is just as intense though without a Moby Dick-type monster. The plus of the two films is the authentic claustrophobic atmosphere in the vessel when the men are sailing, something that will surely discourage those intending to take a cruise some time soon.
The title ‘based on a true story’ immediately flashes on the screen at the film’s start and the film is clear to remind its audience of this fact throughout the film.

The film is a Hollywood account of the daring 1950s rescue mission by the American Coast Guard. An oil tanker, the Pendleton is split in half by a perfect storm. The surviving sailors are left adrift with no means of communication exempt to blast the horn. A member of the nearby community hears the call and a coast guard boat led by the hero, Bernie Webber (Chris Pine) with his crew then risk their lives to find and rescue the sailors. On the tanker’s side, the hero is the chief engineer, Ray Sybert (Casey Affleck).

Director Gillespie spends too much screen time at the start with the romance between Webber and Miriam (Holliday Grainger). All this is to emphasize the heroism and sacrifice of both the men and the women by their side. Gillespie directed LARS AND THE REAL GIRL and therefore uses his past experience in putting in relationships into this film. As in most Disney films, the money making formula is kept to a ’t’.
Romance, action, a happy ending with good heroic dialogue like: “We are all going home.” The problem resulting is a too predictable film.

There is one segment in which all power is lost in the town as a result of the storm and the rescue boat, without a compass needs to find land. I could predict all the cars turning on the headlamps to signal the boat way before that scene occurred.

Once the storm occurs, Gillespie crosscuts between the action in the oil tanker and the action in the Coast Guard boat. It is a 50-50 division. What occurs inn the tanker turns out the more interesting, aided by the fact that the script emphasizes problems between Ray and a disagreeable mate (Michael Raymond McTavish) who has his own ideas on survival. The introduction of a singing cook (Abraham Benrubi) lifts the spirit of an otherwise too serious film.

But one can only endure special effects (not bad ones though) for only so long.

Disney’s THE FINEST HOURS ends up one of the most boring tales of an incredible true mission despite all the enormous effort put in. THE FINEST HOURS is a tad better than IN THE HEART OF THE SEA but that is not saying much.


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