By Jack Dignan
When I saw this film, it was actually fun. It's not going to sound fun, but it was. It was just me, alone, sitting in the cinema, the only other person closer to the front. I could spread out, relax and get invested into this tale of heroic actions, and for one reason or another, this seemed to work. It seemed to amplify my enjoyment for the film, combining together the spaciness of home with the investment of the cinema experience, and since I could hardly remember the film's trailer, I was able to go on this ride unspoiled, and I liked it. It's a simple tale, and one I probably won't ever see again, but for the two hours I was in the cinema for, it was an enjoyable movie.
The Finest Hours is the true story of Bernie Webber (Chris Pine), a coast guard in New England in 1952. He's engaged to a lovely young woman named Miriam (Holiday Grainger), and on the day he goes to ask his commander (Eric Bana) for permission, he's sent away on a mission he knows he might not come back from. An oil tanker, just off the coast line, has been struck by intense waves and split in half. 30 survivors remain on the ship, and if they don't get rescued soon, they're all going to die. It's up to Bernie and his three crew members to take a small boat out into the middle of the sea and rescue them, but the odds are most certainly against them.
The Finest Hours is a story of heroism and doing the impossible, and while both these themes have been done before in much better movies, for what it was, I enjoyed it. Chris Pine plays an extremely likeable and kind hearted coast guard, and right from the opening scene, I felt connected to his character. I liked him. We witness the beginnings of his relationship with Miriam, before cutting forward to their engagement, giving the overall story stakes and emotion. The scenes with Miriam back on land while he's out at sea aren't quite as interesting, but it does build up to a satisfyingly moving pay off.
It's slow moving, but once the film gets going, it's good. A decent amount of time is dedicated to setting up these characters and their relationships with one another, and while it's necessary for the story, it's a bit of a drag and dwells in very familiar territory. But once Pine is sent out to sea, it makes for a damn good movie. It's a repetitive scenario, the characters just floating through wave after wave, but I was far from bored, and as their journey continues, the stakes continue to rise, and I found myself doubting that this film would have a happy ending.
As a film, everything is played very safe. It does the things you'd expect a true story of this subject matter to do, and it does make for an entertaining movie, but there's nothing about it that made me say "woah." Nothing had my jaw dropped or had me looking on in awe. Even the performances aren't anything praise-worthy. Chris Pine and Casey Affleck steal the show, but it's neither of their best. They're fine, but nothing more. They give exactly the same performances you'd expect them to give, but to be fair, everything in this film is handled exactly how you'd expect the filmmakers to handle it.
To sum up, The Finest Hours is a familiar and safe true story with off pacing, but nothing about its familiarities are necessarily bad, and therefore, the film actually ends up being pretty good and surprisingly moving.