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Review by Elizabeth Robbins
Produced by Dorothy Aufiero, James Whitaker
Screenplay by Eric Johnson, Scott Silver, Paul Tamasy
Based on The Finest Hours by Michael J. Tougias & Casey Sherman
Directed by Craig Gillespie
Starring Chris Pine, Casey Affleck, Ben Foster,
Holliday Grainger, John Ortiz, Eric Bana

The rescue of the seaman on the SS Pendleton, during a furious, February Nor’Easter off the coast of Cape Cod is one of the most daring rescues in U.S. Coast Guard history.

It is the perfect subject for an all out action/disaster film, and wonderful way to immortalize the bravery of Coast Guardsmen.

For such an extraordinary story, The Finest Hours is a very ordinary.

This Hollywood-ized telling of the events follows a cookie-cutter recipe for a heartfelt film.

Director Craig Gillespie follows the “Disney formula” for success to a T.

We spend the first 15-20 minutes of the film getting to know earnest Coast Guardsman Bernie Webber, played by Chris Pine. He’s good-natured, hardworking, and by- the-book, but with a past. He labors under the constant shadow of a failed rescue. He meets future wife Miriam (Holiday Grainger), and we see their courtship unfold, setting up a movie’s worth of the tearfully worried love interest who pines away onshore, fretting her love’s return. Miriam’s story seems grafted into the larger story, its purpose to appeal to the female viewer.

Almost as an afterthought, we meet the crew of the SS Pendleton, the doomed oil tanker.

Casey Affleck’s performance as the tanker’s engineer, Ray Sybert, who holds the tanker’s quarrelsome crew together is subtle, and stands out from the rest of the performances.

Through not fault of the actors, merely the by-product of one dimensional writing, the rest of a very talented cast is reduced to caricatures.

Chris Pine delivers a disappointing performance. He spends the entire film wandering from scene to scene in a bewildered state that presumable is meant to be taken as quite strength. It does not read. At no point do I believe that Pine’s Webber has the strength, knowledge, or fortitude of the original Webber, to pull off such a daring rescue. It was if he was in a completely different film and may as well have tried to “Use the Force” to save the tanker crew.

As a side note, if you are not from New England, do not attempt the accent. The comparison of actors in the film native to Massachusetts to the those affecting an accent is glaring and took me straight out of the film. It would have been better to have Chris Pine speak in his normal accent and just be Bernie Webber. Perhaps it would be less noticeable in other parts of the country, in Boston a inaccurate Massachusetts accent sticks out like a Yankees hat in Fenway Park.

Where the film does well is showing how incredibly dangerous and near impossible such a mission was. The special effects of the storm illustrate how small and insignificant even a ship as large as an oil tanker is at sea, let along in the center of a full blown Nor’Easter. On top of that, seeing the minuscule size of the rescue boat in comparison to the waves, you’ll never look at the Coast Guard the same. I found myself holding my breath with each wave.

I was also intrigued with the tanker part of the story. Watching how the ship’s engineer found ways to keep the tanker afloat as long a possible to give the crew a fighting chance was some of the most interesting parts of the film. Unfortunately, it felt as if this part of the story was rushed in order to give the love story more screen time. I would have enjoyed more time developing the tanker’s crew. I would then have been invested in the characters and felt more of a loss when they died.

It is disappointing to me to have this noble story immortalized by such an ordinary, by the numbers film. Instead of honoring the real people and events the story is based upon, it trivializes them, reducing their accomplishments.

I wanted so much more from The Finest Hours.

I wanted to be inspired, but all I left with the passing pleasure of a standard action film.

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