The Finest Hours

February, 2016, Drama

In 1952, a 4-man Coast Guard team conducted what has since been referred to as “the greatest small-boat rescue” in the history of American navel affairs. Seven years ago, authors Casey Sherman and Michael J. Tougias wrote a book about the event and The Disney Company has now made it into a technically sophisticated if simplistic movie directed by Craig Gillespie (The Million Dollar Arm) starring Chris Pine, Casey Affleck and Ben Forster.

The film recounts the break up of the SS Pendleton, an aging oil tanker during a particularly vicious nor’easter off the coast of Massachusetts. Thanks to veteran cinematographer Javier Aguirresarobe (Blue Jasmine, Vicky, Christian Barcelona) an $80 million dollar budget, legions of technical experts, more than 1000 special effects shots and a year of postproduction work, the film boasts mesmerizing images of a modern shipwreck and a thrilling tale of rescue. If only the script and the direction of the cast lived up to the dazzling technical accomplishments of this effort…

Screenwriters Scott Silver, Paul Tamasy & Eric Johnson, (who collaborated on the Oscar nominated script for The Fighter 5 years ago) have fashioned a screenplay for Hours that’s as leaden as the sinking hulk of the Pendleton itself. The action oscillates between the fractured freighter, the quartet of Coast Guard rescuers sent to find it and those on land fearfully awaiting their return. Yet despite its grippingly realistic action sequences, Hours sags each time Gillespie directs his otherwise capable cast to utter lines so simplistic they’re completely out of sync with the storyline.

As the self-effacing leader of the rescue team, Pine’s dialogue sounds like a vain attempt to recreate Gary Cooper’s halting, self-conscious heroes in Sargent York and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.  Affleck is given the thankless task of nearly disappearing into his role as a quiet but effective engineer aboard the doomed ship whose lines are uttered so softly they’re lost amid the mayhem going on around him while Foster shoulders the burden of playing Pine’s annoyingly pessimistic subordinate with perpetual sneer. As a result, the otherwise horrifyingly realistic storm scenes and the superbly designed shots of the truncated ship are wasted due to the movie’s distractingly simplistic dialogue.  If only the humans in this tale could have been half as interesting as the mismatched machines they deal with…

The Verdict? What should have been a gripping tale of genuine heroism winds us submerged in clichéd lines and stilted characters.

 

 

  

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