It may surprise you to learn that I’m not a fan of 3D cinema. It gives me motion sickness. So imagine my delight when I discovered that my screening of Disney’s The Finest Hours, a film predominately set on choppy seas, would be shown in glorious IMAX. Not only would I be graced by disorientating holographic shapes, but I’d also be contending with the swaying and bobbing of a sinking ship. However, what I didn’t anticipate was that the nautical nausea would be trumped by an even more stomach-churning, ‘guff in a poorly ventilated room’ love story.
Unlike its title suggests, The Finest Hours isn’t a film about attractive parts of the day. Instead, it tells the 1952 true story of Coast Guard crewman Bernie Webber (Chris Pine) and his team who carried out a daring mission to rescue members of the SS Pendleton, an oil tanker that had done its best impression of the Titanic and split in half. Intertwined in that comfortably simplistic yarn, akin to The Perfect Storm, is a sickly and borderline creepy romance plot between Bernie and Miriam (Holiday Grainger) – they haven’t known each other long, but she’s already pressuring him into marriage. I think he went out to sea to get away from her.
The SS Pendleton was torn in half because of a devastating storm, but director Craig Gillespie would have you believe that the extreme weather existed primarily to serve as a metaphor for Bernie and Miriam’s relationship. Powerful, icy waves and flurries of snow are strong enough to mangle a 500ft ship, but never mind that, Miriam’s got a perturbed look on her face; let’s zoom in on it and see if we can spot all the ripples of nuance in her tears. In IMAX she’s practically crying on you.
Funnily enough, it was the scenes at sea that kept me from coughing up a hot load of bile on the bald head of the man sitting in front of me. Bernie’s Coast Guard boat battling crushing waves and the SS Pendleton crew members being tossed about the ship, like salad in a bowl, was intense enough to make me momentarily forget about Miriam’s marital moaning. Casey Affleck also offered a gritty contrast as the makeshift captain of the doomed oil tanker. But all the while, I was thinking of the IMAX intro from the trailers. “Don’t just watch a movie, be part of it”, it demanded. I can’t say I see the appeal of being “part” of a film where the highlight of surviving a sinking is returning to a fiancé who’s likely to carve her name onto your forehead while you sleep.
Words by Chris Edwards
Chris’s Twitter @CMEcontent