Based on real events, The Finest Hours is an engaging adventure drama. There are some schmaltzy moments, but the film entertains throughout.
Bernie Webber is a member of the Coast Guard at Cape Cod. When a pair of oil tankers are battered in a 1952 storm, Bernie and his team concentrate on how to reach them. Back on land, Bernie’s sweetheart Miriam worries about his safety…
Director Craig Gillespie mixes disaster movie with drama in The Finest Hours. Set in the early 1950s, the film certainly has nostalgic appeal. The opening scenes in particular immediately situate viewers in the era. Music goes a long way to setting the scene, as does the brilliant costume design. In a way, the film feels like a throwback, with its wholesome characters. There is a charm to this quaintness, more than anything else.
The characters are developed as much as they need to be for the purposes of the plot. Protagonist Bernie is given sufficient depth to explain his actions later in the film. His relationship with Miriam gives the film heart, and makes it easier for the audience to empathise with him. The crew of the tanker are given enough material to interact believably in the perilous situation. Although their fates are important in The Finest Hours, the film concentrates more on giving depth to its protagonist.
Gillespie’s direction has drive in the action sequences. The level of energy fits the tone of the film. Special effects are good, as is the production design. The level of discomfort of both the rescuers and stranded seems accurately portrayed. Chris Pine is well cast as the classic American hero. Casey Affleck is good in a fittingly subdued performance. Holliday Grainger appears authentic in her role.
The Finest Hours is formulaic in its narrative, yet the tone and action sequence are commendable. The film harks back to an earlier era, which is no bad thing.