Thursday, 18 February 2016

The Finest Hours ... Breaking the waves

CHRIS Pine may be the star of director Craig Gillespie's The Finest Hours, but viewers will take a liking to Casey Affleck.
    However, their characters share a similar trajectory in this US Coast Guard small-boat rescue set in 1952, which is based on the book The Finest Hours: The True Story of the U.S. Coast Guard's Most Daring Sea Rescue (2009).

   A film about a small boat traversing rough seas in a thunderstorm will remind viewers of George Clooney in The Perfect Storm (2000).  The Perfect Storm's poster, of a boat riding a huge wave, looks similar to what the small boat in The Finest Hours does.
    Gillespie constructs the special effects with panache. However, credit must also go to Carter Burwell for his stirring orchestration, especially during the rescue scenes.
  Viewers will think that the film focuses only on Bernie Webber (Pine), a handsome Coast Guard employee in Massachusetts who is about to marry his girlfriend of a few months, Miriam (Holliday Grainger).
   It's quickly determined that Bernie is a stickler for rules and regulations, and he says so on his first date with Miriam. He's loathe to disregard orders.
    He's the weaker person in the relationship. For example, it's Miriam who proposes to him and sets the wedding date. His colleague teases him about Miriam wearing the pants in the relationship. He's even afraid of asking his boss for permission to get married, which is a formality.
   Webber, meanwhile, is burdened by the thought of he and his colleague not being able to surmount a huge wave to save a few fishermen a year ago.
   The tanker that will have the honour of being saved is called Pendleton, which is split in half in the storm. The ship's little-known engineer, Ray Sybert (Affleck), is thrust into the limelight when he devises an unusual plan for the vessel to survive until help arrives.
Chris pines for Holliday Grainger.
  Sybert is technically gifted but he knows that he's not well liked on the tanker. Another colleague, Brown (Michael Raymond-James), a central negative personality, proposes using the only life-saving boat on the tanker and taking their chances in the raging seas.
   As the stakes get higher, Sybert is pushed to the front to carry out his intriguing idea.
  I found myself becoming more interested in Sybert than Webber. It doesn't help the film that it plods along and accelerates only when Webber starts on his journey to rescue Sybert.
  Webber's girl, meanwhile, confronts his boss Daniel Cluff (Eric Bana mangling a southern accent) and demands he calls back Webber. Cluff is new and can't assimilate into the organisation. He even has an argument with a subordinate about his accent.
   The film is at  its riveting best when focusing on Sybert, and it loses steam when it switches to happenings on land, especially those concerning Miriam. Her car runs into a snow bank and her first instinct is to make sure her hair is in place.
Casey Affleck make a point.
   By the end of the film, Webber has eliminated his urge to follow rules and can even disregard orders. This earns him the respect of his colleagues and most importantly, Miriam.
   Sybert, too, has risen in estimation among his colleagues. However, he wastes time admiring the broken tanker before descending to safety, which is silly considering that one person has died going down and that the tanker is shifting all the time.
  3 out of 5 stars


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