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Review: The Finest Hours

To avid moviegoers, the month of January is better known as “Dumpuary”, where movie studios typically dump the worst films in their yearly slates, following the Oscar bait Fall months and prior to the tentpole summer blockbusters. Some of this year’s entries have included such winners such as Ride Along 2, Dirty Grandpa, and Norm of the North, all of which are currently rocking an under 15 percent score on Rotten Tomatoes. Sure, 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi wasn’t too bad, but if that’s your best bet at the multiplexes during subzero temperatures, it’s no wonder people are staying home in droves to “Netflix and chill” instead. Well listen up film fans, because there is finally an exception to the Dumpuary rule-The Finest Hours.

The film recounts the extraordinary true story of the daring rescue of the thirty-plus man crew of the oil tanker SS Pendleton by the four manned United States Coast Guard crew on a tiny motorboat in a horrendous winter gale-force storm off the coast of Cape Cod. The rescue mission is still considered today to be the greatest in U.S. Coast Guard history.

Director Craig Gillespie (Million Dollar Arm, Lars and the Real Girl) captures both crews’ dire predicaments on the stormy seas, dramatically encapsulating the tension as both groups of men fight for their survival in the turbulent weather. Aboard the Pendleton, where the ship has been spliced in two (with some members of the crew and the captain having gone down on the other half), introverted Chief Engineer Raymond Sybert (Casey Affleck in a perfectly nuanced performance) coordinates last ditch attempts to keep his beloved ship afloat, in the hopes that he and the other men on board will get rescued. Some of the best orchestrated (and tightly drawn) scenes are those when the chain of command on the tanker is passed on from crew member to crew member (that include character actors John Ortiz and Abraham Benrubi) as the orders make their way from the bowels of the ship to its mast, and vice versa. Though the action is often dimly lit, thanks to unnecessary 3D, it is never not nail biting and thrilling (even with the knowledge of the outcome of the tale).

Thanks to a romantic prologue where shy Coast Guard Bernie Webber (a horribly miscast Chris Pine) is introduced in a meet-cute with his future fiancee Miriam (Holliday Grainger of The Riot Club and The Borgias), the audience will yearn and root for the safety of the humble, heroic captain and his small crew (played by Ben Foster, John Magaro and Kyle Gallner). Playing Miriam, Grainger has brought to life a revolutionary, strong willed woman who is every bit a role model as Disney’s last seen cinematic heroine, Rey. In what could have easily been a thankless girlfriend role, she infuses the film with charming, effervescent gumption.

The film is old-school Hollywood film making and storytelling at its finest. Trust us, The Finest Hours are hours well spent at the movie theater.

[star v=4]

Leora Heilbronn

Leora Heilbronn is a Toronto based film aficionado who has a weakness for musicals and violent action flicks. She can often be spotted reading a wide range of literature or listening to show tunes.