THE FINEST HOURS (7 out of 10) Directed by Craig Gillespie; Written by Scott Silver and Paul Tamasy & Eric Johnson; Starring Chris Pine, Casey Affleck, Ben Foster, Holliday Grainger, John Ortiz and Eric Bana; Rated PG-13 for "intense sequences of peril"; Running time 117 min; In wide release January 29, 2015.
In the winter of 1952, the SS Pendleton oil tanker found itself disabled and sinking during a severe nor'easter blizzard. A single vessel was able to save dozens of crew-members in what is still the Coast Guard's single greatest small boat rescue to date. This is their story.
Chris Pine plays Bernie Webber, a by-the-book Coast Guard captain with a need to prove himself, especially to some locals who blame him for a failed rescue a year earlier. But the real star of the film is Casey Affleck, the engineer of the Pendleton, who is forced to take command and engages in more and more audacious and creative methods to keep his crew alive long enough to be rescued.
The film suffers from some unevenness, mostly from trying to tell two simultaneous stories, and also trying to shoehorn in some added drama via a romantic relationship between Pine and Holliday Grainger, which leads to incredibly flat and disappointing denouement in the final ten minutes. Excuse me, garçon, I did not order this film with extra cheese.
There's a somewhat deflated sense of stakes as well, as we know from the title and premise that the rescue attempt is ultimately successful. But it's the journey, not the destination. The film also slyly continues to tell you how impossible the odds are, helping to increase the suspense as you wonder exactly how they're going to make this rescue happen.
But when the film is on, it is on.
As mentioned before, it all grinds to a screeching halt with an incredibly overwrought and cheesy ending. The human drama and true story was enough to keep the audience engaged. It needn't have been so trite and predictable.
But overall, this a feel-good film from the people who know feel-good: Disney. And this is about the mildest PG-13 you've seen in a long while. For a movie about sailors, these boys all have squeaky-clean mouths.
7 out of 10