The Finest Hours, directed by Craig Gillespie is a film that plays it pretty simple. I was never surprised by anything, nor was I ever lost within a scene that was stand out brilliant – everything in The Finest Hours moved along in a way that came of safe and a little to cookie cutter. There are some good elements to the film – those primarily are how great the film looks and a third act that almost makes up for the bland first 2, but this is a film that does kind of just come and go by the end (like a ship in the night).
The story in The Finest Hours is based on a true one and involves the US Coast Guard mounting an impossible rescue mission of an oil tanker that has split in two and been left adrift in a storm that would be challenging for a whole oil tanker to deal with. Bernie Webber – played by Chris Pine – has that difficult job of rescuing the stranded crew, while Ray Sybert – played by Casey Affleck – has the just as hard job of keeping the separated tanker a float long enough for rescue to arrive.
Where I think The Finest Hours fails is in how the film doesn’t present a story or characters for that matter that you care about or become invested in. I was hopeful at the beginning of the film as it seemed like it was going to take the time to introduce us to who our protagonists were and why this is a story that we’re going to want to pay attention to. Unfortunately as the film stumbled along it became clearer to me that being interested and stimulated by any element on offer was not something that was going to happen.
The Finest Hours has the annoying situation where it has a good cast of actors – actors who I might add definitely deliver some worthy performances. But the problem that both the film and the actors suffer from is a cast of characters who border on the bland. Chris Pine’s character (Bernie Webber) probably gets the most time to be developed – and I must add that Chris Pine, someone who doesn’t usually bring anything to the table (for me) was actually surprisingly good during his time on screen. But the character, even with so much time, has so little to offer. The romance element to his story doesn’t really go anywhere and while it was nice to see his character get redeemed, it was more a roll your eyes time situation than any other.
Casey Affleck (Ray Sybert) is the one who misses out the most though. Affleck brings a really compelling performance, one that I would have really liked to see more of, and a lot of that has to do with the fact that the film teases us with a really interesting character, but never delivers. Who was Ray Sybert beyond the confines of the ship and what made him the competent and reliable man that he was in the film?
This kind of exploration would have in turn also benefited the many moments that took place on the doomed ship. Exploring Affleck’s character could have then meant that we could get more than just surface level insight into the crew. Instead we are given a crew dynamic that is deeply unoriginal and so forced that it once again causes an eye roll to occur. Without the proper development it meant that when it came time to root for them in their most dire of times, I was left with nothing inside me that made me want to do so. I didn’t know who these men were; the film had given me no reason to invest in them. Only the want to see good people survive made me as interested in the harrowing moments and trust me that isn’t enough.
Now I did say that The Finest Hours wasn’t without some enjoyable elements and I touched on it a little bit in the previous paragraph. The third act of the film sees the daring rescue by Bernie Webber and his small team (on a boat that is alarmingly small) take place and this is where the film really picks up. Despite how unattached I was from any of the characters I was still pulled in by the exciting to watch and great to look at scenes. With a combination of some incredible visual effects (something I want to talk about just after this), some stirring music and a set of unimaginable events that gets the heart racing means The Finest Hours certainly does deliver a finale that will cause you to sit up in your chair and pay attention. But while these scenes are exhilarating and visually great to look at, there is still the problem of having to sit through the first two very underwhelming acts – something that many may not find worth it.
But perhaps the thing that deserves the most appreciation in the film is just how good it looks. Visual Effects wise, The Finest Hours goes above and beyond in its delivery. There was quite a few times where I was amazed by the visual heights of the film. Seeing a hulking half of an oil tanker be lit up by the tiniest of spotlights, all while a storm that would rival that of what Clooney once had to deal with was something that more than stood out.
But it’s not only the incredible visual effects that stand out though. The Finest Hours is a film that nails the aesthetic look of 1950’s America. Costume design, locations, everything in the film looks and feels real, lived in. The little touches of detail add a little something to the film and help to balance out the heavy visual effects segments of the film. The set that stands out the most however, is the one that the crew of the stricken ship are on. It’s layered, it has the look of a ship that’s been on the sea for a long time and it adds a level of authenticity to the scenes. In fact overall there’s a look of authenticity to the film, it’s just a shame that those great locations weren’t filled with something of real substance.
The Finest Hours unfortunately is a film with little to offer in the way of a compelling story or characters. No exciting third act or brilliant visuals can save this film from being an unrewarding experience.
I will not be recommending The Finest Hours – a film with little to nothing to offer and one that doesn’t stick around in the memory for long at all.
So does The Finest Hours interest you at all? Let me know in the comments down below. If you’re interested in knowing when my other reviews are up then feel free to either follow this blog directly or follow me over on Twitter – @GavinsTurtle. Thanks for taking the time to read this and enjoy the rest of your week.