The Finest Hours (2016)

February 10th, 2016
Author: Meredith Taylor

Dir: Craig Gillespie; Cast: Chris Pine, Casey Afflick, Holliday Granger, Eric Bana, Ben Foster

118 min. Drama  USA

Set off the coast near the town of Chatham, Massachusetts in February 1952, THE FINEST HOURS tells the story of the “most daring sea rescue operation in history.” Whilst director Craig Gillespie (Fright Night) has come with some stunning images, the script somehow fails to bind the three main narrative strains together.

After a not particularly exciting courtship, Bernie Webber (Pine), a member of the Chatham Coastal Guard, is asked by Miriam (Granger) to marry her. The young man stutters to say no, but soon agrees to a wedding in April. But on February 18th two oil tankers break up near Cap Cod and Webber leads a small rescue boat with a crew of three, among them his mate Richard Livesey (Foster), to rescue the thirty odd seamen of the SS Pendleton, since all the other coast guard boots were helping the SS Fort Mercer.

The action shifts from the rescuers to the men on board of the Pendleton. Miriam accuses the strict Chief Warrant Officer of the Coast Guard, Daniel Cluff (Bana), of scarifying her future husband and his crew in a suicide mission. Indeed, some of Webber’s friends suggest that he should not leave the harbours, telling Cluff that he would not be equipped to overcome the 25 metre high storm waves. But Webber has none of it and reaches the Pendleton more by luck than judgement. After the majority of the survivors are on board the small rescue boat, one of the crew suggests to Webber to leave and come back for the rest of the seamen later. But Webber stays strong and what follows nect is nothing short of a miracle. “We are all going to die or to live”.

THE FINEST HOURS works best during the battle on board the Pendleton. Ray Sybert (Afflick), runs the ship to ground, against the will of some the men who want to use the life boat. The inside of the split tanker looks like a scene from Dante’s inferno, with the men working hard to keep the ship afloat. Miriam encounters some resentment from other citizen’s of Chatham, regarding a failed rescue mission of the past. The claustrophobic atmosphere of the small rescue boat is enhanced with dramatic effects. Overall, the CGIs help to make some memorable images: DOP Xavier Aguirresarobe captures the chaos and despair on the Pendleton with mesmerising panorama shots, creating a hell on the five levels of the ship cut in half. But the script lacks any coherence, with wooden acting reducing THE FINEST HOURS to an old-fashioned ‘boys own’ adventure yarn without any properly explored characters. AS



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