ReelBob: ‘The Finest Hours’

By Bob Bloom

“The Finest Hours” is an engrossing feature that fails to completely captivate you because of its generic storytelling and lack of characterization.

While its main characters are at sea, the film keeps you riveted, but it lulls you to near boredom when they story takes you on land.

The movie, set in 1952, is based on a true story of one of the most memorable rescues in the history of the Coast Guard.

As the title implies, this was one of the service’s most notable and successful achievements.

Yet, despite all the sound and fury, something about the film feels artificial, as if the entire project was shot in front of a green screen with pounding, giant waves, high winds and even snowflakes added in postproduction.

Set in the winter waters off New England, the film centers on two groups of men: the first, four Coast Guardsmen in a frail motor lifeboat doing their duty, despite nearly insurmountable odds.

The second is about 33 crewmen on a tanker split in half, battling to survive against the fury of nature and time.

Chris Pine stars as Bernie Webber, the by-the-book Boatswains Mate first class, ordered by his superior to rescue the men trapped on what is left of the SS Pendleton after a nor’easter splits the ship.

Casey Affleck stars as Ray Sybert, who takes control of what is left of the Pendleton, rallies his shipmates and devises plans to keep them afloat until rescue arrives.

While Pine and Affleck try their best, a script that portrays them as one-note personalities continually defeats them.

Pine holds to his follow-the-regulations mantra, while the reluctant leader mantle foisted upon Affleck hamstrings his performance.

The Cape Cod residents also are stereotypes, acting as if they stepped out of a Gorton’s fish sticks commercial.

Most annoying, though, is Hollliday Grainger as Miriam, Webber’s fiancée. Whenever she appears on the screen, the movie seems to wind down to a crawl. She is shrill and a bit unpleasant, and it is difficult to understand Webber’s attraction to her.

Despite all the intense heroics, “The Finest Hours” is rather distant and clinical. It lacks emotional resonance and any really big moments that sweep you off your feet.

The special effects, especially on the Coast Guard boat and the disabled ship, are very good. The sound editing is excellent as you shudder when the waves slam into the crafts or when the wind mercilessly whips across the water.

The use of 3-D, however, is a distraction, adding nothing to the film.

The movie is very predictable, with the one casualty very easy to discern. It’s as if the poor guy is walking around with a bulls-eye on his back.

Plus, the movie fails to capitalize on all the chaos and havoc. It provides a sense of danger, but lacks any suspense. You feel badly for everyone involved, but can’t get emotionally invested in any of them.

The feature’s best moments — the rescue from the ship — is done in such a quick, conventional manner that it nearly negates the tension and gravity of the situation.

“The Finest Hours” is a decent movie, which, because the story potential was so thrilling and dynamic, could have been much more than a simple and uninspired historical drama.

Bloom is a member of the Indiana Film Journalists Association. His reviews appear at ReelBob ( and The Film Yap ( He also reviews Blu-rays and DVDs. He can be reached by email at or on Twitter @ReelBobBloom. Other reviews by Bloom can be found at Rottentomatoes:

2 stars out of 4
(PG-13), intense danger and action

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