Review: Coast Guard tribute ‘Finest Hours’ lost at sea

Adam Graham
The Detroit News

“The Finest Hours” is enough to make you seasick.

This is a based-on-a-true-story Disney movie about heroic Coast Guard officers, so you can guess its trajectory. But director Craig Gillespie (“Lars and the Real Girl,” the “Fright Night” remake) takes an erratic visual approach, using maddening herky-jerky camera movements that bob up and down like the gigantic waves in the wicked nor’easter storm at the center of the film. Each ticket purchased should come with a dose of Dramamine.

That storm splits a pair of oil tankers in two, sinking one ship and leaving a crew of dozens stranded on the other. Those rugged oil men, led by Casey Affleck’s Ray Sybert, spend most of the movie trying to keep their ship from sinking, when they’re not getting assaulted by waves and bouncing around like pinballs.

A crew of four Coast Guardsmen, led by Chris Pine’s Bernie Webber, heads out on a tiny rescue vessel to save the men. Pine is far from his cocky Captain Kirk; he plays Bernie with a timid reserve that is never convincing.

Ben Foster, electric when playing short-fused psychos, is wasted as one of Bernie’s crew mates; he’s mostly subdued, like Gillespie put him on Klonopin to keep him from chewing the scenery. Only Holliday Grainger, as Bernie’s feisty wife-to-be, makes an impression. Her character refuses to stand by idly as her man risks his life at sea, and Grainger exudes strength in the film’s strongest role.

“The Finest Hours” tells a noble story of brave men who risked their lives to help others. Yet its good intentions are suffocated by its showboat style that favors effects over humanity. It’s a real-life tale that never comes alive.

‘The Finest Hours’

Grade: C

Rated: PG-13, for intense sequences of peril

Running time: 117 minutes