Craig Gillespie (Lars and the Real Girl, Fright Night) continues to earmark himself as one of cinema’s most eclectic filmmakers with this agreeably old-school – if naturally imperfect – disaster flick which should satisfy fans of the genre even if it can’t escape some dull melodramatic trappings.
Massachuetts Coast Guard Bernard “Bernie” Webber (Chris Pine) is tasked with leading a rescue mission to save the men stranded aboard the SS Pendleton, an oil tanker which has broken in half and has just a few short hours before it sinks, along with the dozens of men on-board.
It’s worth noting from the outset that The Finest Hours follows the classic Titanic formula, wrapping its effect-heavy thrills around a romantic subplot that in this instance just isn’t very interesting. Yes, Bernie has a fiancee (Holliday Grainger) to come home to, and Gillespie frequently cuts away from the survival scenario to focus on her worry that Bernie won’t return. At best, it creates a jarring effect that constantly pulls us out of the set-pieces, and at worst, the girlfriend’s quest to see her future hubby again seems utterly trivial compared to the real reason anyone is actually watching the film.
As for the focal event itself, Gillepsie pulls it off very well; the ensemble cast, including Casey Affleck as the self-appointed leader of the Pendleton’s doomed shipmates, Ben Foster and Kyle Gallner as Webber’s co-rescuers, and Eric Bana as Webber’s hard-ass boss, all do fine work, and it’s the visceral shipwreck scenes which get the best out of everyone.
Despite a fairly modest $70-80 million budget, the CGI compositing during the rescue is surprisingly excellent, vastly superior in quality to many films with more than double the budget, all the more impressive considering how garishly fake sea-set action sequences can look. It doesn’t serve up many surprises, but the tight direction keeps things taut and exciting all the same, even if those aforementioned melodramatic interruptions do knock it down a tad and make it feel too long.
It’s not massively memorable nor a film you’ll probably want to revisit often, but at the same time, The Finest Hours hits its conventional markers just fine.
The Finest Hours is in cinemas now