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Film review: The Finest Hours – Chris Pine braves the storm in thrilling seafaring drama

A refreshing change from most big-budget Hollywood stories, this coastguard tale excites with scary, but realistic storm scenes and great characters

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 24 February, 2016, 1:01pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 24 February, 2016, 1:26pm

Most disaster stories are full of melodramatic moments, so this sea rescue adventure – based on a true seafaring story – benefits from an understated approach that allows a variety of characters room to breathe.

The title The Finest Hours gives the impression that the film will unspool with the usual macho movie heroics, but the opposite turns out to be true. The young coastguards at the centre of the rescue are scared out of their wits, and perform their heroic deeds simply because they feel they should do the job they have been trained to do.

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Chris Pine plays Bernie Webber, a New England coastguard haunted by the fact that he couldn’t get his rescue boat out of the harbour to save a sinking ship during a storm. When another storm splits a tanker in half, Webber’s sent out in a small boat to save the crew. Back on land, his new fiancée (Holliday Grainger) learns what life married to a man who has to pit his wits against the ocean every day will be like.

The Finest Hours is a sensible film, and it seems refreshingly out of step with the full-blown antics of most big-budget Hollywood numbers. Craig Gillespie’s cool-headed direction puts it closer to classics like Run Silent, Run Deep than Titanic, especially as he devotes a good amount of time to making sure that all the ships obey the laws of physics.

The storm scenes are exciting and unpredictable, and prove downright scary at times. But it’s the unusually idiosyncratic characters that raise the film to the level of a bona fide drama.

The Finest Hours opens on February 25