Neither critics nor audiences want to watch characters in certain types of movies act the same way over and over again, or see situations play out in exactly the same manner every time. However, sometimes a non-clichéd character can be just as infuriating.
Based on a true story, The Finest Hours follows Bernie Webber (played by Chris Pine), a Coast Guard captain in Massachusetts whose resolve is tested during a brutal 1952 winter storm. An oil tanker breaks apart off the coast, and Webber and his crew are tasked with trying to find survivors in the dead of night while piloting a relatively flimsy boat themselves.
The film flips back and forth between Webber and his crew, which includes Ben Foster as second mate, and the remaining oil tanker crew, led by engine master Ray Sybert (Casey Affleck). Webber’s fiancée, Miriam (Holliday Grainger), also is given strong play as she frets over his fate in the storm.
A character like Webber’s usually is portrayed as a man’s man, someone who risks life and limb without so much as a second thought. The filmmakers and Pine take the opposite approach, making Webber into an indecisive, spiritless person. He seems only to forge ahead in the face of adversity because the alternative would make him a coward.
In other words, he doesn’t inspire confidence. A sense of duty to the job is the only reason for anyone to follow him into danger; it’s a wonder anyone does. Director Craig Gillespie compounds this curious decision with confusing storytelling and substandard CGI that makes it clear that the actors are never in any real peril, something that is crucial in a movie like this.
Because this is a live-action Disney film, you can expect a certain number of cheesy scenes designed to stir the audience’s emotions. However, the film somehow manages to screw those up as well. Most have a pace that’s way too slow to be rousing, and others become laughable when unseen characters chime in with random platitudes.
Pine has gained some traction in Hollywood as Captain Kirk in the new Star Trek series, but he just doesn’t seem to have what it takes to be a true leading man, especially when he’s saddled with a role such as this. Nobody else in the film makes much of an impact, even though Affleck, Foster, Eric Bana, and others are certainly capable of much more than what they show here.
A film like The Finest Hours should give audiences its fair share of lumps in throats and stirring sequences. But this one just sank.