The Finest Hours
Chris Pine leads the way in a maritime rescue drama that sails through on its sweetness
To risk one’s life to save that of a stranger is humanity at its noblest, and a potent riposte to the idea that man as a selfish beast. Powered by pluck, The Finest Hours tells the 1952-set true story of a small band of coastguards who faced probable death in coming to the aid of those aboard a sinking oil tanker. The effects-heavy, storm-set excitement – which includes the splitting of a ship – recalls Titanic, while the coy mid-20th century courtship between an independent woman and a simple-minded man is in the vein of the recent Brooklyn.
At the heart of this tale is the shy, painfully sincere Bernie Webber (Chris Pine – playing appealingly against his usual cocksure character type) and the film takes us from his nervous first date with the glamorous and forthright Miriam (a likeable Holliday Grainger) to his derring-dos at sea, flanked by his similarly unshowy colleagues played by Ben Foster, John Magaro and Kyle Gallner.
Foster is unfortunately wasted here and Eric Bana is squandered too as the gang’s taciturn boss. Meanwhile Casey Affleck gets plenty of screen-time as the tanker’s seafaring maverick, who keeps his men afloat while they wait for help, but there’s little substance to his story (that he’s married to the ship and widely disliked is apparently all we need to know).
Despite interesting casting, Craig Gillespie’s film fails to cultivate the same interest in the crew of the tanker as those tasked with their rescue (with the men only introduced to us as things go to cock). It lacks the intimacy or narrative prowess of the great survival stories, but the affability and conviction of its leads and the sweetness of the love story guarantees that oh-so-important emotional engagement.
The Finest Hours has visual drama aplenty and several stirring moments but the shortage of meat means it never threatens to tip over into awards-calibre stuff, and there’s minimal tension as to the eventual outcome (with the film almost admitting as much in its rushed final throes). Nevertheless, its atypically modest brand of heroism is enough to guide it confidently home.
General release from Fri 19 Feb.