The Finest Hours (2016) – Review


Ok this may not be the film I wanted to review this week, but when life gives you lemons, make lemonade. I chose this film over last week’s other major release ‘Tripple 9’ because I believed that this one would receive much more of a push than Triple 9 had received with the fact that this was being produced by Disney Studios, however, it appears to have had the opposite effect and Triple 9 appears to have received the majority of the advertising, which is a film I do not intend to see because it just looked rather dull and I decided if I was going to see an extra film this week, I would go and see ‘How To Be Single’.

The Finest Hours is directed by Craig Gillespie whose previous credits include Fright Night and another Disney film, Million Dollar Arm, which I won’t claim to have seen, but apparently it’s a pretty good film, or half way decent, the feedback I have got about it varies and I suspect a lot of the positive comments about this film are down to the film being written by Spotlight director, Tom McArthy. This film on the other hand is written by the triple team of Scott Silver, Paul Tamasy and Eric Johnson who previously worked together to write the Mark Wahlberg film, ‘The Fighter’, again, I haven’t seen The Fighter so I can’t give my thoughts on that film, but, again, comments vary. The Finest Hours did receive its release in the US just under a month ago, which again, raised my suspicions considering that this is now officially a January release, and I was put off by its choice of actors which were rather iffy, for example, I do enjoy Eric Banner and to some degree Casey Affleck is ok, but I am not a big fan of Chris Pine and Holliday Grainger, not that they haven’t made good films in the past, However, I put everything to one side and I went down to my Cinema to see if this was a good adaptation of Casey Sherman and Michael J Tougias’s book.

The Finest Hours plot is based on a true story. Set in Massachusetts in 1952 a tanker gets caught in a storm and gets split in half. The crew of one half led by Ray Sybert (plased by Casey Afleck) has to band together to keep the ship from sinking and keep as many crew members alive as possible, meanwhile, a coastguard team, led by Bernie Webber (played by Chris Pine) brave the storm in order to rescue as many crew as possible, but with one of the worst storms in Michigan’s history, will they be able to get to the ship alive and all come back in one piece. If It sounds like I’m being vague with the plot, it’s only because I am, there really isn’t much actually going on in this film, I think I would even go so far as to say, at all! The film runs at 2 hours, but it feels a hell of a lot shorter than that because very little actually happens and what mainly suffers is the characters. A good tragedy or survival film relies on us getting to know the characters, liking them, and as a result wanting them to pull through. A film like Titanic, for example, gave us enough time with each of the characters, so by the time the sinking happened we felt for these people because we had got to know them and what they were about and as a result the tragedy felt more personal to us, which considering a lot of what of our attitudes towards the Titanic itself, was a really important idea. Here, we don’t get enough of that. The characters are rather thinly veiled and we really know next to nothing about them before all the action kicks off. The directors want us to feel for these people, but I barely knew anything about any of them and that didn’t even change during the course of the action. I barely know anything at all about these people by the end of this film. So it just felt like I was watching a movie for the sake of watching a movie! As a result, it just feels boring for at least the first hour and a half! It’s a real get from a to b plot with very little in the middle, there are some sub plots surrounding Bernie’s fiancé Miriam, played by Holliday Grainger dealing with the fact that this is the first time since their engagement that Bernie has gone out in a storm, but it never really amounts to anything and it feel tacked on and outside of that, most of the women in this film get very little to do. Now I am not crying sexism since this film was based on a true story and to a larger extent, a biography of the event, so the screenwriters were limited, but I never felt any of the emotion I should have felt from these scenes, so as a result her parts feel superfluous and almost un-needed, which is not something I should be saying for this type of plot. I also think this film does not have that much originality in terms of how it looks. This film really owes a lot to The Perfect Storm and Titanic and even goes so far as to mimic a lot of the scenes from those films, the former more than the latter, which is a really bad idea considering that that film was much better and drawing comparisons doesn’t help. The Perfect Storm had great effects but they were bult up by the fact that again we had grown to find the characters enduring so as a result we were hoping the true story wasn’t true and we would get a Hollywood ending and yes I know there’s issues with The Perfect Storm but I actually like that movie. This film just doesn’t have that, so as a result it feels like we are watching an effects sequence. There are also the supporting roles which feel like they do there job, but feel like they don’t contribute much at all, mind you, these are supporting roles so don’t seem as much of a negative in my opinion. The fellow coastguards for example, barely have any plot, there is also a sub plot around the brother in law of a man that Bernie went out to save but failed and was blaming Bernie, if you think that sub plot would go anywhere, don’t it’s resolved very quickly and without much progression. Don’t get me wrong, The Finest Hours is not a terrible plot but it is so bland and forgettable that I really feel I can’t go into too much detail about it because it really isn’t that well developed and it’s a shame because this is truly an extraordinary story when you look into it and the credits emphasise that very well, by the way, seriously, stay around for the credits, there are several scenes of the film’s production coupled with actual photographs of the situation taken by the press and it shows the excellent level of detail that the film makers took to preserving the aesthetics of the true story.

In the hands of a better director I think this could have been an absolutely amazing film. the problem is that neither the screenwriters nor the director are up to the task and this is fairly evident in how the film has turned out. It feels very ‘paint by numbers’, we know for example, that there is going to be at least one big speech, and at least one moment where a character dies to get some cheap emotion out of the audience, and trust me, when those moments happen you will see them coming a minute or two before they happen! You know that moment of the film where you see a character and they speak a line of dialogue or do a certain action and you think ‘you are so dead’, there are at least a couple of moments in this film that are like that!

The Finest Hours though, is not wholly negative. It does have some good moments, especially in the last ten or twenty minutes, but at the point it actually finds its identity and emotion, it’s too little, too late and as a result you don’t feel anything for these characters or the scenario they were in and I almost at times forgot I was watching a film based on a true story, which is a massive error for this kind of film. The best way I can describe the plot of this film is that it’s like that Indie band where you liked a couple of songs by them, it does certain parts competently but it’s not really anything special and you will probably forget it as soon as you hear it. That’s this film’s plot in a nutshell.

As for the cast, they’re not much better. There are some decent performances but they’re marred by poor direction. Chris Pine is an actor that I tend to find is very bland or arrogant in most of his roles, and he leans more towards the bland in this film. I have enjoyed him playing Captain Kirk in the last two Star Trek movies and I am glad he is returning to reprise the role for a 3rd time, but I’m just not really a fan of his, especially after I saw This Means War and Princess Diaries 2, both films after the fact made me hate the actor with a passion. This film does not do him justice, and he doesn’t really show any emotion in his part until the last 10-20 minutes of the film. Casey Afleck for example could have been an excellent lead, but the script really doesn’t give him enough of a personality to pull off this role. The same goes for Eric Bana who feels completely wasted in this film as the head of the coastguards, I’m certain there is an actual title for that, but I forgot what it was. I will say admittedly he does actually do a decent american accent and he was rather unrecognisable in the part and I didn’t actually realise it was him playing it until I got home and looked up the cast list on IMDB. John Ortiz is another good actor who feel very wasted in this film and especially Graham McTavish who fans of the Hobbit films will recognise as Dwalin, who at least gets a lot to do, unlike many of the cast members on the freighter, but anytime you think you are going to get something out of him, it cuts away. Ben Foster is another example of an actor who feels incredibly wasted in his part, but he’s not largely in the film so you don’t need to worry too much about that. Holliday Grainger is another actor, who I have not really been a fan of, but she did win back a lot with me with her role as one of the step sisters in last years Cinderella, however her role is really thankless in this film and her role feels almost non existent at times, largely due to the fact that there are large chunks where she doesn’t appear for a good half hour, it also doesn’t help that I thought her performance reeked of poor direction, but again I will say she does a very good american accent and while I am on the subject, I will praise Chris Pine for the fact that he does a very good Massachusetts accent as well which shows at least some versatility in the actor that I didn’t think he had, so credit where credit is due. Honestly this cast could be excellent if they were given the right writers and directors, but in this film they really aren’t doing a brilliant job.

Aesthetically, on the other hand, this film is at times really good. It has some excellent shots and the harshness of the storm, despite the fact that they seem to be ripping off shot for shot from The Perfect Storm, to such an extent that I thought you could play certain scenes back to back, but at least they are done well, although I will admit that some of the time you can really feel the effects being done, like you can almost see the green screen in the background, you can almost see the stage hand pressing the button to make a gang plank move or a flame thrower to suddenly activate from some of the engines and it can rather take you out of the scene. I will say, however, the film does have good effects and the costume design is very well done to add some authenticity to the time period that it is meant to be set in. The score is also excellent. I actually think that the score really matched the scenarios of the film and I was actually noticing it doing a better job most of the time than I was noticing the actors in this film.

I saw the film in 2D, I know the film was converted into a 3D and I did initially intend to see the film in 3D, but the closest cinema to me only had the 3D showing very late at night and it didn’t match my schedule, apart from that though I really didn’t feel a need for this film to be in 3D. There were a coupe of moments that felt they would benefit from the 3D version, but that was largely down to the fact that there were things flying at the screen or that certain shots would have given an extra sense of height that 3D added depth brings to a film, but those moments were few and far between so I don’t think the 3D conversion would have made too much of a difference, so I wouldn’t rush out to get some 3D glasses to watch the film, however I haven’t actually seen it in 3D so I’m not going to comment on that.

The Finest Hours is not a terrible film, but it’s a very forgettable film. I don’t expect this film to turn up on my ‘worst films of 2016 list’ but I’m not going to be recommending it to anyone, even if you are the sort of person who waits for a film to come out on DVD because this will just sit on your shelf after you have watched it once, you won’t want to get it out again! It was rather boring in its first half and while the last 20 minutes did have some good moments, it didn’t make up for the bland film that was playing before it. The cast feels very wasted and the film reeks of a poor script and poor direction. It really is a film that I expect to forget a week after seeing it! The effects are rather decent and the cinematography is pretty good even if it does feel like it is ripping off The Perfect Storm and Titanic one too many times, but the fact is, if you don’t get to know the characters, you don’t feel too much for them when the situation gets tense. This film is based on a true story and it could have been amazing, but as it stands, it’s a rental at best. I would almost say pick this one up for morbid curiosity because it’s a not really a so bad it’s a good film and that’s really the only scenario where I would recommend that.

“What were your thoughts on The Finest Hours? Was it worth it or did it just bomb?”

Please leave something in the comments section if you enjoyed this review and feel free to check out my Twitter account to see my thoughts on films I’m hosting, plus there’s still time to vote on my straw poll for what should be the 2nd review of April, I’ll leave a link here for you so you can cast your vote


After reviewing Deadpool last week, this feels like a bit of a come down, but fortunately my DVD from Europe did arrive, so next week I will be reviewing the first of DC’s Animated Movies of the Year “Batman Bad Blood” and as I am writing this review I am already half way through making my review of that one, so that one will be on time for 4 March. So come back to the site for that one.

Thanks for reading my review, I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it, and please, if your haven’t already seen it, go and see Deadpool because there is not much else out right now.

Calvin – Nerd Consultant

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