Monday, February 8, 2016

The Finest Hours Review

I'm gonna level, I normally hate movies like this. They're usually so generic and rely so much on the whole being an honorable hero is all that matters vibe, and that puts me off. This movie had a real uphill battle to win me over going into it. I was really expecting it to be like that Ashton Kutcher film The Guardian from 2006 which bored me so much. With that being said the Finest Hours almost got me good.

Directed by Craig Gillespie, This film stars Chris Pine as a dim-witted and anxious, but honorable New England Coast Guard Bernie Webber, as he is tasked with the practically suicidal assignment to rescue a half sunken rig off the coast of Massachusetts. Taking place in 1952, this true mission is still regarded as one of the most impressive and heroic rescues in the history of the Coast Guard (suck it Ashton).

If there's one thing this movie did that almost blew me away, it was how they portrayed their (main) characters. Webber is not a classic archetype for a heroic lead. He isn't confident, he isn't smart, and he isn't even high ranked. He has trouble asking out the girl who is clearly head over heals for him, and even when she proposes to him, he get's all anxious and shifty. He even went as far as saying he had to ask his Commanding Officer for permission to get married, even though it was an outdated formality. This was so interesting to me as I wanted to see how this would play out later on in the film as he lead the rescue. More interestingly was his female counterpart Miriam (played by Holliday Granger). Oh man this girl made me uncomfortable (in a good way)! She was more than overbearing, more than a concerned "dame" waiting nervously and supportively for her hubby to come home (in the beginning of the film at least). She was boarderline insane with how clingy and spastic she was. She would make Bernie ask a respected to sneak on his boat, she erratically asks him to marry her (not that there's anything wrong with that, but the way she did it was off-putting and not to mention the time period they were set in when masculinity was a big deal). She would call Bernie several times a day, barge into Bernie's office unnecessarily, and insist that Bernie ask his CO for permission to get married. She reminded me of the character of Alice from A Place in the Sun, who always put me off weirdly. These two characters together made me cringe but it also made me immersed. This is how real people act, movies are sometimes too afraid to show this side of humanity. Unfortunately the rig had to go and get sunk.

This to me is where the movie takes a turn for the worse. We are introduced to Casey Affleck's character, Seabird, an aloof ship engineer who knows the ship better than anyone. His character is interesting enough but we really don't get any development for him. Yeah he's shy and he keeps to himself but we don't really get a sense of who he is back home or what made him so into the boat. Some would argue that it's not necessary but I believe little things like this are what push movies the extra mile. Little bits of his life here and there in passing dialogue would have served the film well, and there were definitely opportunities for it. Forget about the other side characters. Best I can describe them as is just there. Nothing to them at all. Which is fine in some films but more jarring here since Bernie and Miriam are so exquisite in personality.

The other characters aren't even isn't worst offender of the movie. The worst offender of this film is what happens to Bernie and Miriam as soon as Bernie has to go off and rescue this ship. Their characters take almost a full 180 and turn into the heroic archetypes you'd expect out of a movie like this. Bernie becomes confident, head strong, and stubborn in the name of heroism. And Miriam shifts from spastic overbearing significant other into concerned and supportive wife-to-be back home. I was so disappointed by this and I was seriously pulling for this movie up until this point.

I have a bit of insight/theory of what happened. This movie was filmed back in 2014 and put into development hell for about a year (this is when a move is set up with either a script or is completely filmed but no one wants to produce/make it). At some point Disney came along and said we'll make it, but you gotta play by our rules. Something tells me the characters were altered in a way to make them seem honorable and stable during the critical moments of the film. I could be completely wrong but that's the impression I get.

On that note, this isn't really a typical Disney film either. Hell, there's even a shot at a dead body floating down the ocean (though its as tame as it possibly can get). People are going to wonder why they even bothered with a movie like this, it's not the most marketable film and they're doing so well elsewhere (Star Wars, Marvel, Frozen) that they really didn't need this one. But My theory is that Disney wanted a film that parents can show their kids (ages 8-10) in order to ease them into more adult films. In that sense, this movie is perfect for that, as it has nothing that would immediately traumatize a kid, but still mature enough to take away some of the bleakness of the real world. And that's really all this movie has to be.

Production and set design are great here. Most of the sets are hand built for the film and a lot of the effects are practical. There is a great parallel between the land scenes and the scenes on the rig that make for good talking points. The costumes and setting are very polished to fit the 1950's winter sea town vibe. The acting is acting, nothing stellar but there aren't any weak links. I saw the movie in 3D and it was... whelming I guess. It's a post-production conversion (meaning they didn't shoot with 3D cameras) and I'm not the biggest fans of those (there was one very cool slow motion moment though).

I can't say this film didn't entertain me. It didn't meet my expectation of being a colorless hero porn movie, but it still managed to disappoint me. I guess because it caught me off guard with some outstanding qualities that I began to expect more from it. But it's the best one of "these" movies I think I've seen and I guess that says something. Not bad for a January blockbuster!