Review: ‘The Finest Hours’ – Heroic Film Mired With Melodrama

Storming into theaters nationwide this weekend, Disney’s The Finest Hours directed by Craig Gillespie starring Chris Pine and Casey Affleck is a heroic tale that’s sunk by a screenplay full of schmutz and melodrama.

The heroics depicted in the film The Finest Hours are the most intense action sequences so far in 2016. If only The Finest Hours had a screenplay worthy of the heroics depicted on screen.Though based on true events, The Finest Hours plays like a cornball 1950’s-era drama filled with stock characters and has an ending that is so over the top ( some might say it’s so Disney) that it takes away the impact of what many call the greatest small boat rescue in Coast Guard history.

At first, the movies tone fits in rather nicely with the era that the film takes place in (The 1950’s). It’s 1951 and in the first act, we meet Bernie Weber (Chris Pine) a painfully shy petty officer stationed at the U.S. Coast Guard station in Chatham, Massachusetts. Weber strikes a romance with the beautiful Miriam (Holiday Grainger), who marches to beat of her drum. If fact she is such a free spirit, she’s the one who eventually pops the question to Bernie. However, Bernie has a lot on his mind. Some of Chatham’s fisherman and many of Bernie’s fellow sailors treat Bernie like a pariah. A year prior there was a tragedy at sea and Bernie, and his crew tried to overcome rough seas while on a rescue mission, and they failed. Some of the members of the Chatham community felt that Bernie should have tried WICKED “HAH-DUH” to save them. Fast Forward to Feb. 18, 1952, when a nor’easter of monstrous proportions struck in the waters off of the coast of Massachusetts. The damaging waves resulted in ripping not one but two oil tankers in half. Thinking there was only one boat in peril, the Coast Guard sent most of its resources to the SS Fort Mercer. By the time the Coast Guard realized the Pendleton was in peril as well, it was left to Bernie and three crew members to man a small Coast Guard motorboat on a seemingly impossible mission to locate the Pendleton and rescue all hands on deck.


Scott Ilver, Paul Tamasy, and Eric Johnson developed the screenplay for The Finest Hours, and the result was a script that’s a hifalutin pretentious mess. Intermixed with scenes of unmatched action we are forced to endure scenes such as Miriam ( Bernie’s fiance) storming into the Chief Warrant Officer Cluff (Eric Bana) office demanding while in the midst of an emergency that he just send her fiance back home. If that melodramatic garbage wasn’t infuriating enough, as the movie muddles along we bare witness to some of the worst romantic dialogue ever concocted. Those exchanges between Miriam and Bernie have all the sincerity of an Elementary school playground romance. It was as if the Ilver, Tamasy, and Johnson realized that the actual small boat rescue wasn’t enough for a screenplay, and they quickly scribbled some lines on loose leaf paper. To say that this script was haphazardly constructed would be an understatement.

The special effects in The finest hours were preposterous. The CGI waves utilized in the film looked to have been built by a junior high AV club. Also, were we supposed to believe that the white stuff falling from the sky was, in fact, snow? To me, it resembled pieces of styrofoam that had been ripped off of a cup. The 3-D which was meant to enhance the audience’s experience, in reality, does nothing to improve any part of the film. All of these elements were intended to add intrigue, intensity, and dramatics to the movie and in reality, all it added was confusion, mild laughter, and irritation. In some films, the only saving grace is the special effects but in this case, it only made matters far worse.

It truly is a shame that Disney didn’t put more effort into developing a better film because the story of those Coast Guard men defying the odds is just incredible. To be honest, the men deserved a better film this. Maybe if Disney had come to this realization, we wouldn’t have ended up with such a subpar finished product.

The Finest Hours


Dewey Singleton - Film Critic
Dewey Singleton - Film Critic
I'm a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association and have been doing reviews for many years. My views on film are often heard in markets such as Atlanta, Houston, and satellite radio. My wife often tolerates my obsession for all things film related and two sons are at an age now where 'Trolls' is way cooler than dad. Follow me on twitter @mrsingleton.