Review: THE FINEST HOURS (2016) | Casey's Movie Mania | Movie Reviews, Features & Others

Monday, 22 February 2016

Review: THE FINEST HOURS (2016)

A slow-moving, but decent old-fashioned maritime disaster drama blessed with fine cast and stunning special effects.

After exploring a trio of different genres that include comedy (2007's LARS AND THE REAL GIRL), horror (2011's FRIGHT NIGHT) and biographical sports drama (2014's MILLION DOLLAR ARM), director Craig Gillespie tries his hand at tackling disaster genre for the first time ever in THE FINEST HOURS. The result is a stunning, if flawed disaster drama done in an old-fashioned filmmaking style.


Inspired by a little-known true story set in the winter of 1952, the movie follows Bernie Webber (Chris Pine) and his three Coast Guard members (Ben Foster, Kyle Gallner and John Magaro) on a daring rescue mission to save the stranded crewmen (Casey Affleck, John Ortiz and among others) of the damaged SS Pendleton oil tanker.


As a disaster movie, THE FINEST HOURS boasts a strong mix of visual and sound effects best seen in the IMAX cinema. Kudos also go to Craig Gillespie's impressive camerawork, with some of the interesting POV angles of the massive wave that put the viewers in the middle of the seafaring action moments.

The movie also does a credible job establishing a number of characters, starting with Chris Pine's central performance as Bernie Webber. First of all, it was nice to see Pine playing a socially awkward person for a change. Apart from Pine's nicely subdued performance, he is well-matched with Holliday Grainger, who in turn, manages to lend a strong support into her otherwise thankless girlfriend role as the feisty Miriam. From the moment they lay eyes on each other to their eventual engagement, the love story between Bernie and Miriam is wonderfully executed with charming results.

As for the rest of the supporting roles, Casey Affleck stands out the most as the SS Pendleton's chief engineer Ray Sybert. Even when the ship has suffered a major breakdown and about to sink anytime, I'm really impressed with his professional attitude for being calm under pressure. It was no doubt a great low-key performance worth noting for. Other notable standouts include Ben Foster, Kyle Gallner and John Magaro. Eric Bana, on the other hand, made good use of his otherwise underwritten role as Bernie's unsympathetic commander Daniel Cluff.


The exhilarating moment where Bernie and his three Coast Guard members overcome the choppy water and violent wave, while riding on their small boat is almost akin to a roller coaster ride.


Clocking at nearly two-hour long, the movie tends to suffer from patchy storyline as well as sluggish pace in the middle. This is especially true during some of the less-than-compelling moments involving Miriam's growing concern over the safety of Bernie.

Another glaring weakness here is the use of the 3D effect. While I really enjoyed the IMAX presentation shown during the press screening, I wasn't particularly fond of its 3D. Since most of the seafaring action scenes are shot in the dark or low-light condition, the additional 3D effect makes the screen look dimmer.


Despite being a newbie in the big-budget disaster movie, Craig Gillespie shows good potential directing a combination of effect-laden action, drama and romance. While THE FINEST HOURS has its fair share of shortcomings, the movie remains a decent crowd pleaser worth watching on the biggest screen possible.

* This review is written courtesy from Walt Disney Malaysia IMAX 3D press screening *

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