Walking into “The Finest Hours,” I was ready for the film to be good. I wanted it to be good. On paper, there was absolutely no reason why it should not be good. Chris Pine is a perfectly serviceable, generally charismatic lead. Casey Affleck is an underrated talent and great choice for the supporting role. The story itself is based on actual events and features drama on the high seas, shipwrecks, courageousness, selflessness, giant storms and good old American greatness. And it was all coming from Disney, which has proven itself quite adept at turning true stories into compelling film fodder. Every sign pointed to this film being, at very least, a completely entertaining, non-waste of money.
But, against all odds, here we are.
The film centers around the 1952 Coast Guard rescue mission of the crew of the oil tanker “Pendleton.” The ship split in two during a winter gale, and the Coast Guard dispatched four Guardsmen and a motor lifeboat to pick up the 32 survivors before the stern section of the tanker sank.
Pine plays Bernard C. Webber, the United States Coast Guard Mate who is picked to captain the motor lifeboat for the mission. He has just met the love of his life, Miriam (Holliday Grainger), who takes an active role in trying to convince Webber’s commanding officer (played by Eric Bana) to call the lifeboat back to port. Due to the small size of the lifeboat and ferocity of the storm the crew of four is headed into, the rescue mission is largely regarded as a suicide mission. But, as Webber points out in one scene, “the Coast Guard says you have to go out. They don’t say you have to come back in.”
Meanwhile, on the “Pendleton,” Affleck plays engineer Ray Sybert. Sybert knows the “Pendleton” better than anyone else on board, and when the ship’s captain is lost in the bow section after the break-up, it falls to Sybert to control the surviving crew and get them to work together and attempt to ground the ship on a shoal before it sinks.
There are some things the film does OK with: Affleck is indeed the high point of the film, though that is not saying much in this regard. And the true-story skeleton of the film is still compelling and dramatic enough on its own to provide some moments of tension and excitement. But that is about as close to “good” as the film manages to get.
For starters, it is horrible to look at. Featuring some of the worst computer generated imagery (CGI) seen in a major-budget film in the past decade, “The Finest Hours,” is an absolute eyesore. Everything has a pale blue or green filter over it and many scenes are overly dark in an attempt to hide the bad imaging. By the end of the film, the distraction is too much to bear, and it is all you can see, which is actually a slight blessing, because it distracts you from Pine’s woefully uncharismatic performance and the baffling fact that nobody seems to make eye contact with anyone else in the film.
What you are left with is a film that should have been a slam dunk but instead winds up being an ugly, annoying bore of a film. And that is a genuine shame. CV