Run time: 1 hour 57 minutes
Stars: Casey Affleck, Eric Bana, Holliday Grainger, Chris Pine
Director: Craig Gillespie
Speeding to the rescue through a blizzard is a tiny Coast Guard craft, her skipper (Chris Pine) punching his vessel through towering waves and deflecting pleas from his crew to turn back.
Not about to turn back either is the officer's plucky fiancée (Holliday Grainger) ashore; she ignores the locals' insistence that she return home, draw the curtains and await the inevitable bad news about her man's fate.
Is it just me, or is it getting a little heroic in here?
That's no slam; if I could, I'd drape a hero's ribbon round the neck of director Craig Gillespie, as well. He had the courage to make an old-fashioned PG-13 action thriller devoid of grisly effects and salty language. At the same time, Gillespie has infused his characters with the kind of off-center charm that characterized his earlier, smaller films (Lars and the Real Girl, Fright Night).
Coast Guardsman Bernie Webber (Pine) has a lot to live for: Well-liked in his little town on the Cape, he has just gotten engaged to Miriam (Grainger), the strong-minded lass who popped the question when she got tired of waiting for him to.
Still, a man has to do his duty — especially when the year is 1952 and the movie is titled The Finest Hours — so Bernie slaps on his Mae West, rounds up his ragtag crew (shades of Oceans 11) and casts off to battle the elements and save the day. Engineer Ray (Affleck), meanwhile, does everything but radio Rube Goldberg for progressively more outrageous ways to survive on a ship that resembles a loaf of bread sliced in half.
The stars all define their roles admirably — especially considering the visual havoc unfolding on every side. If this film had been made around the same time as the true-life events it depicts, Humphrey Bogart would have played the engineer, Laurence Harvey would be the lifeboat captain and the action would have transpired almost exclusively in cramped quarters below.
Today, thanks to computer-generated imagery and clever camera work, the action explodes across decks, above and under the raging seas, and in endless tracking shots down twisty corridors. Through hours finest and otherwise, Gillespie's camera seldom stops moving, creating an uncanny sense of being tossed about on the ocean top. (Though the film is available for viewing in 3-D, the mostly dimly lit scenes come off downright murky.)
The Finest Hours yields two fine hours of adventure. But as the film's grim-faced Cape Codders might say, "Bring a slickah."
Bill Newcott is a writer, editor and movie critic for AARP Media.