Chris Pine stars in this emotional rescue story about a heroic Coast Guardsman who leads a small crew into a winter storm to rescue the workers on a sinking oil tanker. The Finest Hours is based on the true 1952 story, which the Coast Guard still regards as their most miraculous mission. The movie may already sound exciting to you — and it is. But I was pleasantly surprised to discover how emotionally engaging it is, too. While it may not stray too far from formula, The Finest Hours is not another Hollywood action flick obsessed with destruction and visceral spectacle — everything is in service of the story here.
There are two great strokes of genius at work here. The first is that the movie is really a love story disguised as an action movie. The screenplay opens with boy meeting girl. Pine’s character is on a blind date with the woman who would later become his wife (played by Holliday Grainger). He’s nervous, she’s nervous, and they are both adorable. You fall immediately in love with both of these characters, and this connection is the magic that carries you through the rest of the movie, all the way to the end. Pine gives one of his more remarkable performances in the film, but the second stroke of genius is the casting of Holliday Grainger. She’s not playing a fretting housewife waiting by the phone as you might expect. The script gives her a lot to do, heroic things even. Grainger shines in the role, giving it the compassion, determination, fear — and even anger — that it requires. I loved her and will definitely be looking for her in other movies.
Casey Affleck is memorable as the oil tanker’s methodical engineer. Carter Burwell serves up a beautiful score. With Eric Bana and Ben Foster.