Klavan On The Culture

"The Finest Hours" Shoulda Been Great

The Finest Hours, the based-on-truth story of the amazing 1952 Coast Guard “Pendleton Rescue,” has everything going for it. Great cast. Casey Affleck is one of the best movie actors alive. Ben Foster is one of the best character actors. They’re both excellent here. Plus the action sequences are stupendous.

But the picture’s only okay and never really achieves the heroic heights it’s going for. For one thing, the filmmakers didn’t know what to do with the romance between lead Coast Guard guy Chris Pine and fiance Holliday Grainger. It’s basically the story of a young woman learning what it means to be a hero’s wife — how to wait, how to live with fear, how to overcome the bitterness of death with womanly forgiveness — but somehow the writers and director just don’t know how to tell that unfeminist (which is to say realistic) narrative. (In real life, the two were already married and she was bed ridden with flu on the day of the rescue.) Plus Pine, who can be an appealing hero, overdoes his aw-shucks character and never really wins our support. Affleck, meanwhile, shows how it’s done in the role of a tanker engineer rising to an horrific occasion.

The picture is worth seeing to catch the fun action sequences and to appreciate the courage of the men involved. Plus there are fine performances throughout. But it’s disappointing. It shoulda been great.