Movie Review: The Finest Hours

Every military branch has a rival they insult on a regular basis. The Army makes fun of the Air Force because they do not know how to infantry, the Marine Corps hates the Army for being pampered, and the Navy looks down on everyone not them. It is a part of the culture, a kind of camaraderie common among team-based groups without regard for who is better or more important. But the branch that gets the most grief is the Coast Guard.

Next to Reservists, Coasties are the Navy equivalent of toddlers in life jackets according to everyone else. Sure, they have the most vital domestic job of securing our coastlines, but that does not stop other branches from making fun of them. One movie about the Coast Guard that comes to mind is The Guardian, a terrible one thanks to the casting of Ashton Kutcher. It did not set a good precedence following the revelation of The Finest Hours, which was then delayed past its holiday 2015 release. Does it make a better case for the much-reviled branch or should it have been shelved permanently?

In the middle of a hurricane, a tanker ship is torn apart by waves, leaving only the stern with a limited time before it sinks. Faced with suicidal odds, Webber, played by Chris Pine, takes a crew on a small boat to attempt a rescue.

In general Hours is very okay. It is straightforward about its premise and does not really try to be interesting or complex. This is a common problem with movies based on true stories. You either go the route of exaggeration or stick with the source material and make it boring. Now, Hours is not boring and it is not bad by any standard. The best word to describe it would be simple; as plain a film about a suicide rescue mission as you can get.

Basically, it is the Cost Guard.

That is not say it does not have noteworthy qualities. It has a very Spielberg feel with an authentic presentation of the 1950s. The look is saturated with a brownish/amber color scheme punctuated by bright light. Everyone talks with a thick Boston accent, wears period clothing, and everything has a consistent rudimentary feel. The sets are nicely realized with the ship being the best. There is also a lot of CGI that fits the overall visual style.

With its average presentation, however, Hours is totally devoid of tension. It is story about four guys riding through a hurricane to rescue the crew of a ship that was split in half and I could not feel any of the fear, urgency, or sense of scope. I do not know what it was. I am sure there was tension, but if so, I did not feel any. The whole movie just glazed over me like a fine mist. It was pleasant at times, but nothing extraordinary. I think the problem stemmed from the performances. Pine, Casey Affleck, Eric Bana, and Holliday Grainger were static, awkward and phoned in, especially Pine and Affleck. I do concede that their characters are supposed to be awkward, but it sucked out the energy. How can I get invested when everyone seems to be sleepwalking through their roles?

As a result, the supporting cast was left to do the best they could. Ben Foster managed to stand out a bit as the grizzled veteran Livesey. There were some fisherman characters that popped up for a few scenes and the ship crew was mostly distinguishable. Graham McTavish also stood out, but only to me because I know he does a lot of voice work and he was on Outlander before I stopped watching from boredom. The man has the gravelliest Scottish accent ever and it was a shame he had to sound like an American for this.

And that was The Finest Hours, a very simple and plain true story that will not offend anyone or make you feel anything to be totally honest. At this point I am struggling to even talk about it. It is so ordinary you know what will happen and you know what to expect. If you know what you want, odds are you will find it. It rides the line as a January film that is not the worst thing ever nor the best.

It is, after all, a Coast Guard movie.

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