********* 7 out of 10 *********
Director: Craig Gillespie
Actors: Chris Pine, Casey Affleck, Holliday Grainger
I can never get enough of movies displaying heroic actions of men and women from history. Show me one each day and they will never cease to inspire me! The Finest Hours brings such a story to the big screen, true events that happened more than six decades ago, but worth remembering even now. Director Craig Gillespie’s movie does not become as dramatic and exciting as say Argo (another rescue mission though in different circumstances), but in its restrained manner it does do justice to the actions of crewman Bernard Webber and his team. It achieves that one thing that every rescue-themed movie aims to do – it touches the heart!
The Finest Hours is based on the book written by Michael J. Tougias and Casey Sherman. It narrates the events that occurred in February 1952 when an oil tanker SS Pendleton split into two leaving its crew stranded in the midst of a blizzard off the New England coast. Bernard “Bernie” Webber and his crew of three other men are handed the task of locating the ship and bringing back its inhabitants in what is still considered as one of the most daring rescue missions of the US Coastguard. The screenplay written by Paul Tamasy, Eric Johnson and Scott Silver, works first on building the character of Bernie (Chris Pine) and his romantic relationship with Miriam (Holliday Grainger). The tempo of the movie is thus slow to begin with, held together only by the gentle demeanour of Pine (much in contrast to his Captain Kirk days) and the charm of Grainger.
The movie comes to life only once the rescue mission is given the go-ahead. The darkness of the night, the sounds of the crashing waves, and the enormity of the ocean ready to gulp anything big and small, therein lies the heart of the film. The cinematography by Javier Aguirresarobe will pull you into the bleakness of the blizzard and the powerful music by Carter Burwell will make it difficult for you to step away. Director Craig Gillespie lets nature shine in this movie, making it the enemy that can never be overcome. And with the stage set for man to fail, every small feat of accomplishment becomes a big enough reason to cheer. Gillespie’s movie carries such moments in plenty, both on the boat coming to the rescue led by Bernie and on the stranded ship where people are fighting to stay afloat led by the engineer Ray Sybert (Casey Affleck). Shots moving from the rescuing boat to the ship and then to the town that awaits their return gives this movie more character than reading its premise alone would have told you. It’s handled with grace and restraint, not trying to achieve that climatic ‘hurrah’ moment, and instead letting the bravery of those men seep in gradually.
Chris Pine’s calmness in his personality while playing Bernie stands out in contrast to the harshness of the weather, as he shows yet again how effective he can be in any role. There is always a feeling of likability that we associate with Chris Pine and that only grows stronger in The Finest Hours. He makes for a good team on the boat with Ben Foster, who sulks for most parts of the movie, Kyle Gallner and John Magaro. On the ship we have Casey Affleck playing the lead role, though his character is a bit dry and too detached for my liking. Making things more interesting are the likes of Graham McTavish (the big Scottish guy) and Michael Raymond-James (who wants to abandon the ship early on). Holliday Grainger is delightful to watch as Miriam – tough, likable, and with a buzz about her that gives us a welcome break from the crashing waves. Eric Bana plays the newly appointed commander – a brief role which he handles smoothly.
Despite knowing for most parts of the movie how things will pan out, The Finest Hours still manages to excite, entertain and keep the audience hooked. It also manages to warm the heart and inspire without calling for a loud round of applause. A nicely packed together movie, much more fun in 3D, The Finest Hours does what Bernie would have proud of – perform its job dutifully!