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The Finest Hours – Movie Review

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The Finest Hours – Movie Review

Rating: C (Average)

Trailer/Thumbnail Courtesy Walt Disney Studios

Some historical dramas are content to replicate the setting and time period and if they bring audiences back to that decade, they will be satisfied. The Finest Hours certainly manages to capture the early 1950s in a seaside Boston town, but in seeking to tell the story of a rescue by the local Coast Guard, it never becomes particularly exciting. Even with a strong production team and a capable cast by his side, director Craig Gillespie crafts a rather ordinary drama with not much in the way of thrills. Even with the peril and what’s at stake, this becomes mostly forgettable.

The actors all give suitably solid performances with Chris Pine playing his Coast Guard more than capably and without turning into Captain Kirk. Holliday Granger is also decent, nicely portraying somebody unaccustomed to the unpredictable life the wife of a Coast Guard would have to deal with. Casey Affleck is the stand-out as the man in charge of an oil tanker and trying his best to keep his crew under control. One can tell the patience he’s dealing with, while he himself is frightened underneath his tough skin. However, these people aren’t written in the most three-dimensional manner and it’s difficult to become emotionally engaged with them. The conflict between Pine’s Bernie Webber and Ben Foster’s Richard Livesey especially seems shoe-horned into the film, whether it happened in real life or not.

This affects the rescue scenes and the longer the film goes on, it drags. After a while, it becomes tiring watching multiple sequences of the boat rocking in the water and splashing its occupants. Similarly, the scenes back on the home front with characters listening to the radio become monotonous. There’s little spark in Craig Gillespie’s direction and there’s a lack of fluidity when the film jumps from location to location. The attempts to make Granger’s Miriam a stronger character with more screen time are admirable, but her scenes don’t add a whole lot to the story. When we’re left with these one-dimensional characters, the technical elements are given the responsibility to up the excitement level.

The visual effects crew do a great job of animating the waves and seamlessly composite the various aspects of the scenes together. It’s the sort of subtle CG that makes for the best special effects work. The scenes onboard the tanker are effective in creating a claustrophobic environment the crew worked in. Director of photography Javier Aguirresarobe captures some breathtaking shots as he works his way through the ship and swoops up and down as the workers try and mend the infrastructure. The sound team on The Finest Hours also deserve credit for capturing the aural sensation of constantly having all manner of water and weather splashing in your face. The 3D is completely unnecessary, though, only serving to darken the imagery in a film that’s already set mostly at night and during a terrible storm.

The Finest Hours should be more exciting than it actually is, but Craig Gillespie’s direction is disappointingly uninspired. He’s also working from a barebones script that lacks strongly developed characters and little rooting interest in their predicament. Obviously, the audience wants the oil tanker crew to return to their families safely, but it becomes such a long and dull road up to that point. Even Carter Burwell’s score just limps along with little of the dramatic fanfare these sort of pictures are accustomed to. This is certainly a story deserving of great cinematic treatment, but The Finest Hours is sadly not it and outside of the technical aspects, it’s very ho-hum.

Stefan Ellison

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