Director Craig Gillespie has never been a household name, but I have been a fan of his past works such as Million Dollar Arm and Lars and the Real Girl. His films fail to strike a deep emotional chord, but they generally tell very interesting stories and keep the audience engaged. Therefore, I was at least mildly interested in Gillespie's latest endeavor, survival drama, The Finest Hours.
After a massive oil tanker splits in half during a wild wintry storm off the shores of Massachusetts, all nearby Coast Guard units are dispatched to the scene with their finest vessels. And in the most improbable turn of events, a second oil tanker suffers the same exact fate, splitting in half as well and slowly sinking into the frigid ocean waters. With the nearly 30 passengers on-board working tirelessly to keep the ship afloat until help arrives, responder Bernie Webber (Chris Pine) is called upon to assemble a 4-man crew in a daring rescue mission with only a second-rate boat at their disposal.
It's difficult not to compare Gillespie's new release against another well known and finely executed sinking-ship drama, The Perfect Storm. Both are based on true stories and where Wolfgang Peterson's 2000 release wins the audience over with strongly developed characters and worthwhile dramatics, The Finest Hours most shining attributes revolve around its spectacular special effects. Chris Pine continues to illustrate a fine ability to carry a film and Casey Affleck's character has a few strong moments as well, but nearly everyone else becomes a replaceable piece to the puzzle. The third act's rescue mission delivers noteworthy thrills and suspense, but the film fails to create characters through which the audience can connect and have a vested interest. The Finest Hours is a decent, but far from exceptional, film that dazzles with eye-popping visual effects. And despite holding the audience's attention for nearly two full hours, its writing and overall effect fails to stack up against The Perfect Storm.