The Finest Hours may not be the drama of the year, but it’s a solid movie that can be enjoyed by the whole family.
(Let’s get this out of the way. Disclaimer: A copy of this DVD was provided in exchange for an honest review. Opinions are solely my own.)
The Perfect Storm is set in 1952, when a massive winter storm strikes off the coast of Cape Cod, ripping a T-2 oil tanker in half and trapping more than 30 sailors inside its rapidly sinking stern. When word of the disaster reaches the U.S. Coast Guard, four men led by Captain Bernie Webber (Chris Pine) set out in a 12-seat boat on a daring mission to rescue the stranded men, braving freezing cold, 60-foot waves and hurricane-force winds. The men on what’s left of the tanker are led by Ray Sybert (Casey Affleck) who becomes captain after the first one goes down with the other half of the tanker.
The Finest Hours is a solid movie that floundered at the box office, due to unfortunate scheduling. The Finest Hours premiered the same weekend as Kung Fu Panda 3, but the movies that killed it were The Revenant, an Oscar darling that was still attracting audiences, and Star Wars: The Force Awakens, which steam-rolled pretty much everything at the box office. Furthermore, audiences hadn’t forgotten the poor outing in December for In the Heart of the Sea, another drama set on the waves. If The Finest Hours had premiered on a different weekend, perhaps in February on the same weekend Gods of Egypt, which was a complete failure, it would have garnered the attention it deserved.
The Finest Hours has a lot going for it, mainly Chris Pine and Casey Affleck. Both actors are talented and bring more to their characters than the script provides. They find a lot to do in scenes that have either wave-filled action sequences, or predictable “aw, shucks” dialogue. Their supporting actors are also top-notch, like Eric Bana as the ranking officer, Daniel Cluff. Even actress Holliday Grainger, as Miriam Webber, the love interest, brings the right amount of feistiness and worry to her role.
The slow pace, the slang and the period style of The Finest Hours is a kind of balm against the quick-cuts and break-neck pace of most action movies. The pace is indicative of how we perceive the time period, and also allows younger viewers — who are, no doubt, part of the target audience — to keep up.
While the drama isn’t as nail-biting as, say, The Perfect Storm, it’s harrowing enough to make you appreciate how brave these men were. The Finest Hours doesn’t feel as high-stakes, partly because it’s been pressed through the Disney filter (no swearing!), and partly because we know the ending. The story is just as amazing, though, watching both crews find creative ways to keep their boats pushing through the storm.
When I watch movies, like The Finest Hours, that have a very clear-cut story to tell — man vs. nature, in this case — I always wonder why there needs to be a love interest. Having a sweetheart back on shore doesn’t necessarily push Webber to get back alive. I mean, they all just want to live. And watching her worry about Webber doesn’t make us worry about him any more than we already are. It’s a life and death situation, for cryin’ out loud. The only purpose, then, for having Miriam in the movie at all is to give us a little character background on Webber, before he heads out to sea. But really, I would have rather seen him in training, or working with crews, to get that background.
The extras on The Finest Hours DVD are almost more interesting than the movie. Against All Odds: The Bernie Webber Story is the documentary about the 1952 rescue. While there aren’t a lot of CGI waves, the documentary has some details that give you a better idea of the odds the crew were up against. What is Your Finest Hour? and The Finest Inspiration: The U.S. Coast Guard introduce us to real Coast Guard heroes.
The Finest Hours serves a purpose, and serves it well: Serve up a drama about a real-life rescue that the whole family can enjoy. Really, that’s kinda what Disney is all about.