The Finest Hours

The title of this lackluster film does not describe the feeling you are left with when leaving the theater.

The Finest HoursAs most movie fans know, January is the functional equivalent of the Month of the Living Dead. While every now and then a film surprises and rises above the collective debris flowing into movie theaters (a review of Natalie Portman’s Jane Got a Gun will follow), praise is usually limited to phrases like “average at best”. Director Craig Gillespie’s The Finest Hours is one of those films.

Released by Disney, it really should have been an enjoyable movie experience. Centering on one of the greatest rescues at sea by the Coast Guard off the East coast of the United States in 1952, it tells a dramatic tale where average guys put their lives on the line to save the remaining sailors floating on a tanker that had split in two.

However, the film is nearly ruined by one of the worst performances by an actress that has been seen in a long time. While it is not her personal fault, Holliday Grainger plays Miriam Webber, an arrogant, selfish phone operator who is engaged to Chris Pine. As fate would have it, Mr. Pine plays the leader of the four-man Coast Guard Rescue Team risking death at sea.

Ms. Grainger’s character is annoying at every turn, and let’s begin by stating that she bolted out on Pine in anger after he rejected her marriage proposal at a dance. In addition, all you really need to know is seen in the previews, namely that she approaches the Coast Guard Commander (played by the accomplished Eric Bana) and demands that he recall the rescue boat that her fiancé commands. You are momentarily left with the feeling that Pine secretly embraced the possibility of death if it would avoid having to come back and marry this woman.

Though she continuously surfaces throughout the film, the movie does capture your attention when it is allowed to focus on the rescue attempt in the middle of a giant storm. The special effects at sea are quite good, and the film is nearly saved from its weaknesses at that point.

With the exception of Casey Affleck, who plays an otherwise ignored seaman whose knowledge helped save the sinking tanker, nearly all of the other supporting actors are left largely underdeveloped. As referred to above, the acclaimed Australian actor Eric Bana does little more than put up with abuse of subordinates who hate his accent and the supremely unlikable Ms. Grainger. Given his wonderful performances in previous films such as Black Hawk Down (2001), Munich (2005), Hanna (2011) and Closed Circuit (2013), you have to assume that Mr. Bana is drinking heavily if put in the position where he has to ask friends to watch this movie.

Given that the Disney Studio found hidden gold last year with the release of the underrated film McFarland, U.S.A., it is a pity that they didn’t pay more attention to this movie release. It will disappear from the screen quickly so don’t bemoan the possibility that it escaped your attention.