The Finest Hours
dir Craig Gillespie
prd James Whitaker, Dorothy Aufiero
scr Scott Silver, Paul Tamasy, Eric Johnson
with Chris Pine, Casey Affleck, Ben Foster, Holliday Grainger, Eric Bana, John Ortiz, Kyle Gallner, John Magaro, Graham McTavish, Michael Raymond-James, Beau Knapp, Josh Stewart
release US 29.Jan.16, UK 19.Jan.16
16/US Disney 1h57
The Finest Hours
Into the storm: Foster and Pine

affleck grainger bana
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
The Finest Hours With a sweeping-epic sensibility augmented by one of Carter Burwell's bigger scores, this true story is a gripping depiction of ordinary men who rise to remarkable acts of heroism. It's expertly orchestrated by director Craig Gillespie, who keeps things tense and thrilling while the actors deliver quietly engaging performances that avoid melodramatic excess.

In 1952 Massachusetts, Coast Guard sailor Bernie (Pine) has just agreed to marry his plucky sweetheart Miriam (Grainger) when a winter storm strikes, breaking an oil tanker in two off the coast. In its stern section, engineer Ray (Affleck) takes charge of his rebellious 32-man crew, inventively steering the barely floating wreckage toward a shoal. Meanwhile, Coast Guard commander Daniel (Bana) assigns Bernie, his colleague Richard (Foster) and two young crewman (Gallner and Magaro) to head out through the fierce storm to rescue them against the odds.

These events take place in driving rain at nighttime, yet Gillespie keeps the visuals crisp using clever direction and sharply realistic effects. The camera surges to give the audience a sense of scale and perspective that makes it shockingly clear how each element relates to the others, especially in two breathtaking back-to-back sequences. Sometimes this leaves the actors as mere specks on the screen, emphasising that these are normal people in a mind-boggling situation. And that true heroes sit in the background, thinking about their actions rather than charging ahead.

Pine delivers a strong performance as the inarticulate Bernie, a young man respected by people who know him and mistrusted by those who don't. And it's the same for Affleck's Ray, who sighs heavily as he realises he's the natural leader of a rebellious crew. Both men carry the weight of past mistakes but are silently confident in their instinctual skills as sailors. Amid this sea of testosterone, Grainger gets the feistiest character, a woman who simply can't sit quietly and wait.

Thankfully, Gillespie keeps the grandiosity in check, depicting inventive bravery without letting the film tip into rah-rah heroics. This makes it inspiring but never pushy, even if Burwell's music swells above the towering seas at all of the right moments. Instead, the film is an exploration of the kind of quiet courage that often goes unnoticed, mainly because the people who exhibit it aren't looking for glory. And even more sobering is the way the film's script remembers the fact that these kinds of against-the-odds rescues are all too rare.

cert 12 themes, violence 2.Feb.16

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© 2016 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall