The Finest Hours centers on the story of 30-something sailors trapped aboard the SS Pendleton in the winter of 1952. A vicious storm broke the ship in half and four men were sent to save them. This film is based on a true story and it is truly terrible.
Under the direction of Craig Gillespie (Million Dollar Arm), The Finest Hours stars Chris Pine (Star Trek) as Bernie Webber who has none of the charm, wit, or likeability found in a typical leading man. Instead he is quiet, awkward, and often confused. The film doesn’t begin in the water but, instead, on Bernie’s first date with his future wife Miriam (Holliday Grainger). The couple’s first interaction not only adds nothing to the overall narrative but it is incredibly awkward, and not in a cute way. He mentions at one point that she looks like Smokey the Bear because of her fur coat to which she replies with an uncomfortable giggle and the film only goes downhill from there. This effort to be cute and charming (or at least, one would assume it was meant to be as such) falls short as their relationship comes across as forced and dispassionate. After a clunky and uncomfortable first date, it only gets more uncomfortable when Miriam asks Bernie to marry him and he simply says, “No.” He reluctantly agrees to marry her but his love for her never seems genuine. Their relationship is forced into the narrative without any real indication that the two are really in love or even compatible. Of course, in real life, the two were married and stayed married for fifty-eight years so that probably should have made it easier for their relationship to come across as realistic and genuine. At least, one would assume.
Aboard the SS Pendleton is Ray Sybert (Casey Affleck) who is trying to save the ship from sinking after it was split in half. Though the waves and wind crash around them, the crew never seems really desperate or to truly seem to grasp the gravity of their situation. After being trapped in the freezing cold and stumbling around icy water, no one seems really fazed by the drastically low temperature or by the fact that they have been trapped on a sinking ship for days. No one seems to react appropriately to their situation as the crew members bicker amongst themselves like children. They are, of course, angry and argumentative but the intensity of their frantic babbling never rises above a heated debate. None of the crew members seem to realize that they are going to die and the stakes are never risen very high because all of the tense scenes are downright hokey. It is hard to determine exactly how perilous their situation actually is as it is only described in exposition. Though the temperatures are supposed to be below freezing, the crew never seems to shiver or even acknowledge the cold at all.
Ray is, undoubtedly, meant to be, like Bernie, a strong, likeable, and commanding leader but he fails to exhibit any of these attributes. Ray supposedly knows the ship better than anyone but no one trusts his decisions and he barely seems to trust himself. He comes across as someone who has just had a rough day at the office instead of a strong and resilient leader. In fact, his character is so unremarkable and ridiculous that he gives his most moving speech while peeling the shell off a boiled egg.
Bernie takes a small crew of forgettable Coast Guardsman on a small lifeboat to save the crew of the SS Pendleton. It may seem obvious that when watching a rescue mission, the audience should feel compelled to cheer on the members of the rescue team but it is hard to root for characters who could easily have been replaced by cardboard cut-outs (this would definitely have made the film more enjoyable to watch). Even on the rescue mission, Bernie seems bewildered that they even made it as far as they did and barely seems confident in his own knowledge or experience. He is definitely not the confident leader one would have to be to pull off such a risky rescue. The best you can say about him is that he gets consistently lucky.
While the ship is sinking and Bernie is on a mission to save the crew, Miriam is on a mission of her own that is equally tedious, and even more laughable. She frantically begs Coast Guard Officer Cluff (Eric Bana) to order Bernie to turn the lifeboat around. To be fair to Grainger, she puts in the effort to come across as empowered and assertive but it was in vain. Instead, she comes across as clingy, ridiculous, and hysterical. The script, written by Scott Silver, Paul Tamasy, Eric Johnson, fails to utilize the acting talent available to them by being slow and clunky. Grainger is yet another actress whose talent is diminished because the writers were unable to write her a quality role.
All of these flaws may be expected from a film that relies solely on special effects, however, the CGI is surprisingly unimpressive. Every scene aboard the SS Pendleton and in the water clearly looks as though it was shot using a green screen while buckets of lukewarm water is being dumped onto the actors. When most of a film is completed in post-production, the narrative and the visuals often suffer as they do in The Finest Hours. While the film claims to be authentic and based on actual events, the actors are never authentically fearful, frantic, or even seemingly cold.
Verdict: 1 out of 5
Despite being based on real life heroism, adventure, desperation, and bravery, The Finest Hours exhibits none. It tries to be heartwarming, endearing, and exciting but it falls short by having lifeless characters and awkward dialogue. The film is flat, uninteresting, and tedious to watch and will only have the audience at the edge of their seats in the anticipation of its conclusion.