In the right hands, “The Finest Hours,” releasing to theaters on Jan. 29, could have been a harrowing drama about one of the most remarkable rescue missions ever. As it is, however, it just feels like standard biopic fare. It’s overloaded with sentimentality, too many underdeveloped characters, and scenes in which characters are placed in danger, but the audience doesn’t feel tense during many of its scenarios.
The story itself is quite intriguing, and worthy of a big screen adaptation. It’s 1952, and two oil tankers, the SS Fort Mercer and SS Pendelton, get hammered by a nasty storm off the coast of Cape Cod. The crews on both ships are left stranded in the middle of the sea, where the storm is rapidly growing, and their resources are growing scarce. Enter Bernie Webber (Chris Pine) and the members of the United States Coast Guard, who brave the storm to rescue the surviving members of the ships.
Like last year’s “In the Heart of the Sea” and this month’s “13 Hours,” “The Finest Hours” lacks in character development and has trouble making up for it in other departments. It just feels so ordinary for the type of story it wants to convey. There’s an old-fashioned feel to the whole thing with a love story occurring between Pine’s Webber and Holliday Grainger’s Miriam before the rescue mission takes place, but it’s plagued with hokey dialogue and the two actors don’t have much chemistry together.
Though Pine is a solid actor, he struggles with the Massachusetts accent. His performance comes off more like a bad Mark Wahlberg impersonation than it does anything else. But his is not nearly as ear-piercing as the one put on by Eric Bana. An Australian native, Bana plays the part of the Chatham Coast Guard station’s new boss, Daniel Cluff. He’s not from the area, as he tells the other characters throughout the movie; he actually hails from the South. But one can’t really tell with the accent that Bana has. And it’s painful to hear him say “Webber” each time he does so.
There are some good performances here, notably from Casey Affleck, who plays the engineer of the SS Pendelton. Grainger is also worth watching as Webber’s love interest, delivering some great lines before the big rescue mission.
Some of the moments out at sea are mildly compelling, and the 3D works in some aspects. There’s one scene in which director Craig Gillespie follows a message of navigational information as it makes its way from one person shouting to the next throughout the decks. Made to look like one-take, it’s a dizzying yet exciting scene, and one of the few that work. The 3D is sort of useful when a piece of debris swings across the screen, but that doesn’t happen enough times for one to pay full admission to see it in that format.
“The Finest Hours” does look well, both on land and at sea. And while the actual event is one that will never be forgotten, one cannot say the same about the cinematic adaptation of it.