Film Review: The Finest Hours

Finest Hours poster


In February 1952, off the coast of New England, an oil tanker’s hull breaches during an intense nor’easter. Risking death, Bernie Webber (Chris Pine) and three of his fellow Coast Guardsmen take their tiny lifeboat out to sea in an attempt to save the lives of the crew.

January is a lousy month for movies. February, more often than not, is too. I think most people would agree with this statement. Unless they’re interested in Oscar nominees finally getting wide releases, moviegoers are out of luck. Films still come out, of course, but people usually ignore them, and a lot of them aren’t good anyway. In fact, releasing a movie during these first couple of months typically means the studio doesn’t have a lot of faith in it; the studio couldn’t find a better time in its schedule for the film (that, or the movie is a schlock Valentine’s Day feature, in February’s case).

Finest Hours pic 1

So, what does this mean for The Finest Hours? Well, its opening is close enough to The Force Awakens that it bombing won’t hurt Disney that much. As of this review, Star Wars is close to reaching $2 billion worldwide. And the company will recoup its losses when the new Captain America film makes a killing in May.

But despite all the odds, like in the movie itself, The Finest Hours actually isn’t all that bad. Depending on your point of view, you might even call it good. It has almost everything a good movie usually has: a likable hero, an engaging plot, a decent romance, and a generally well-thought out production design. It’s admittedly a pretty safe movie, but it’s respectable nonetheless.

Casting Chris Pine as Bernard “Bernie” Webber was definitely an odd choice, given that his claim to fame is playing Captain James T. Kirk in J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek films. In those movies, he’s a brash ladies’ man who often disobeys orders. In contrast, in The Finest Hours he’s a by-the-book sailor who’s shy around women. But now that I think about it, I wouldn’t be surprised if Chris Pine took the role to avoid being typecast in the future. And, believe or not, he pulls it off, accent and all.

As for the romance, it’s hit or miss, though it works more than it doesn’t, as there are certainly some interesting aspects to Bernie’s relationship with Miriam (Holliday Grainger), his fiancée. For instance, she’s the one that proposes. But while I find this interesting, I can imagine this might be off-putting and annoying for some moviegoers, who might view Miriam as a bully who pressures Bernie into marriage. She also might annoy some people with her constant pleas to call back Bernie. But those pleas are understandable, given what he’s up against. Still, the majority of her storyline feels unnecessary or fictitious; I’m willing to bet that she never really met the widow of someone Bernie failed to save (whose existence I’m also unsure about).

Finest Hours pic 2

The final notable character is Ray Sybert (Casey Affleck). The film doesn’t really explain why, but he’s not well liked by the crew of the SS Pendleton. However, it’s easy for the audience to sympathize with him because of what he goes through and does during the storm; he, like Bernie, gets stuff done. What they’re exactly doing can get confusing at times, due to all the technical terms, but it’s apparent what emotions you’re supposed to feel. Furthermore, the effects successfully convey the gravity of each problem that must be overcome, even though it’s sometimes obvious that the movie was shot in front of a green screen.

It’s funny. You won’t hear many people throw the word “success” around when describing The Finest Hours. In the traditional sense, the film is a failure. No one saw it and it’s unlikely to garner any attention in the future. But as a movie that tells a story, one with likable characters and exciting visuals, it succeeds. And in January that’s all you can ask for.


Aaron Sarnecky is Pop-Break’s television editor and covers Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Agent Carter, among other things. He is a graduate of Rowan University with a degree in Television and Film. He probably remembers that show you forgot existed. Follow him on Twitter: @AaronSarnecky

Aaron Sarnecky is The Pop Break’s Television Editor and covers Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., among other things. He is a TV/Film grad of Rowan University and the fraternal twin of staff writer Josh Sarnecky. He probably remembers that show you forgot existed.