It should be one of the happiest days of Bernie Webber’s (Chris Pine) life. Becoming engaged to his girlfriend, the beautiful Miriam (Holliday Grainger), Bernie’s aim is to go to work at the Coast Guard station where he is stationed and go through the ritual of asking his boss, Daniel Cluff (Eric Bana), if he can get married.
As fate would have it though one of the worst storms to ever hit the United States strikes on that very day. Offshore two oil tankers split in half and while the Coast Guard rushes to save the crew of one they have no idea that another is in difficultly until the alarm is raised much later. As Ray Sybert (Casey Affleck) battles to keep his crew alive Bernie finds himself being sent on a mission to rescue them, with a crew of his own –a crew that doesn’t trust him as his last rescue ended in the loss of life.
Sometimes when a film is released you just have to shake your head at what the distributors think they are doing with the film. Disney’s choice to release The Finest Hours in Australia with no media screenings and only in limited cinemas is a baffling one. Traditionally, disaster films always do well in Australia and not only that The Finest Hours is certainly not the kind of film that should be kept away from the film loving public as it is a film that has a lot going for it.
So often when a director and screenwriter team together to make a disaster film they fall into a familiar trap of trying to make the audience like the characters so much they pile a heap of back story into the film and the result is the disaster itself starting way too late into the film. That certainly isn’t a trap that Craig Gillespie and his team of screenwriters fall in to. Gillespie as a director is someone that certainly can’t be peg holed into a style of filmmaking. From the thought provoking Lars & The Real Girl through to the horror frights of Fright Night Gillespie seems to just make whatever film he damn well feels like and here with The Finest Hours he shows why he is a director that should be added to your list of ‘exciting directors in modern day filmmaking.’ He doesn’t muck around with tons of back story with The Finest Hours, instead the storm itself hits within the first half hour of the film, which means that Affleck and co and in peril before the ice in your Coke has even started to melt.
Surprisingly The Finest Hours also manages to raise the stakes on a number of levels. Not only are the crew of the oil tanker in great peril but Gillespie also makes in known in no uncertain terms that Bernie is being sent on a mission that he has badly unprepared for with a boss that has no clue what he is doing… he is being sent to certain death. Just to raise the stakes even more Gillespie then has the events happen not only through the eyes of Bernie and Ray but also from the perspective of Miriam, an innocent bystander who is forced to watch as the man she loves is being sent on an impossible mission.
It’s for that reason that The Finest Hours is a must see for those people that love good cinema. The suspense never lets up and Gillsepie masterfully directs intense scenes which sees Bernie’s small Coast Guard boat become a submarine as it plunges through the waves in front of it and the even more suspenseful scene during which Ray’s crew have to face the hard decision of whether or not to jump into the wild sea that has just claimed their tanker.
The team of screenwriters also have done enough with the screenplay to make the key characters here likable. You instantly care what happens to the likes of Bernie and Ray, while they even steer well clear of making Mirian a whiny character, something that you feel a lesser team may have accidentally found themselves doing. The screenplay and Gillespie’s directional style also allows the cast to have a little bit of free reign as well. A look between Chris Pine and Ben Foster as their characters race towards the wild sea says more than one ten pages of script ever could. Likewise watching Casey Affleck sit in the corner and calmly think while the rest of his ‘crew’ panic says more about his character than any back story ever could. While both of done some great work in films over the years The Finest Hour is the one film that really shows that Affleck and Pine are so much more than what we have seen from them in the past.
Through no fault of its own The Finest Hours is one of those films that is going to be overlooked by a lot of film goers simply because of the fact that it hasn’t been promoted properly. That’s sad when you realise that in a lot of ways this is a far superior film to something like The Perfect Storm… yes Craig Gillespie has somehow managed to create a classy disaster flick that demands a viewing by serious film lovers.
Director: Craig Gillespie
Starring: Chris Pine, Casey Affleck, Ben Foster, Eric Bana, Holliday Grainger
Running Time: 117 mins
Release Date: 19th February 2016