Director: Craig Gillepsie
Cast: Chris Pine, Casey Affleck and Holliday Grainger
Running Time: 117 minutes
Release Date: February 19th
Every few years Disney takes a break from its billion-dollar franchise machines and makes a smaller, more human film, usually mining the annals of history for some unique event that could serve as a family-friendly, fists-in-the-air tale of redemption/glory/“YAY AMERICA!”. Some, like the Paul Walker-starring Eight Below are actually pretty good. Most are bland, boring or just bad. The Finest Hours is one of the latter; less ‘punch the sky,’ more ‘punch yourself in the face’. Director Craig Gillespie – who gave us fellow serious-minded Disney ‘true story’ Million Dollar Arm, as well as 2011’s underrated Fright Night remake – here takes the wheel of a significantly larger ship, and the results are yawn-inducingly average.
It’s a tale of two boats. One is the SS Pendleton, an oil tanker which has been ripped in half by the storm of the century, manned by Casey Affleck’s Ray and an all-star cast of TV show side characters. Luckily Affleck is preternaturally gifted when it comes to navigating the inner workings of an oil tanker so they’ll probably be fine. The other is the not-as-catchily-named CG 36500, the Coast Guard rescue boat captained by Chris Pine’s hero of the hour Bernie Webber. Luckily Bernie is preternaturally gifted when it comes to navigating the raging seas so they’ll probably be fine. It’s like Titanic crashed into The Perfect Storm and, taking place in 1952, it’s temporally situated somewhere between those two similarly generic tales of trouble at sea. What it lacks is the sense of scale of the former, having only a couple of moments that really convey the epic sight of the Pendleton’s stern struggling to stay afloat. It also lacks the dramatic tension of the latter, as we never truly feel like we could be heading towards anything other than a Disney-approved ending.
The cast seem to be bored, nobody really reaching for anything other than bland melodrama; although it’s easy to see that being pelted with thousands of litres of water for months of filming probably left most of them just looking forward to going home at the end of the day. Chris Pine’s charming presence is wasted spending half the film’s running time doing little more than looking increasingly weary behind the wheel of the rescue boat, while Holliday Grainger as Bernie’s spirited fiancée Miriam looks the part with an inarguably classical beauty, but does little more than shuffle around looking worried as she pines for Pine. What little conflict there is exists mostly between man and nature, with Pine’s old Star Trek nemesis Eric Bana thrown in to give the audience a human being to be mad at for it all. Ultimately it hits all the bullet points you expect it to, sometimes quite nicely, but instead of instilling you with the manufactured sense of triumph that it wants to, it merely washes over you before sinking without a trace.