This Week's Review: The Finest Hours

Anyone who suffers from mal de mer should stay far, far away from The Finest Hours; if, however, you enjoy the disasters-at-sea genre, you will enjoy this one.  I saw it in IMAX and there were times when I felt disoriented; I fear that much of the impact will be diluted on a small screen.

The story takes place in the early 1950s and is based on a true incident which is still considered the most daring small craft rescue mission ever undertaken by the Coast Guard.  I still remember similar films from the 1950s, particularly The Wreck of the Mary Deare and The Cruel Sea.  I was very happy to live in the landlocked state of Oklahoma and still worry that Houston is so close to open sea.

As with In the Heart of the Sea, the film picks up speed as soon as the characters leave dry land and head for open waters. Chris Pine is more subdued (and therefore more effective) than usual in his role as the leader of the rescue expedition.  The only other actor I recognized was Eric Bama as an ineffective commander.  The cast does not actually matter; the special effects are the best reason to see the film.

(If Hollywood wants more disasters-at-sea scripts, the writers might consult the novels of Alistair Maclean; several of his were never filmed.  The Guns of Navarone and When Eight Bells Toll could each stand a remake and we have never seen films of H.M.S. Ulysses, South by Java Head, and other Maclean thrillers.)


I ended my day with the third installment of the Kung-Fu Panda series.  It was pleasant fun, but I think I could have saved some money by seeing a 2-D version rather than 3-D.  The script assumes that the audience is very familiar with the story of Po and his various allies, but I confess that some references were not completely clear to me.  The children in the audience all laughed at the appropriate times, and I assume that the parents or grandparents escorting them at least smiled.  I don’t know if there will be more in the series; the joke, unlike Po, is wearing a little thin.