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Film review: ‘The Finest Hours’ delivers old-fashioned thrills

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The Finest Hours

Three stars

The Finest Hours Chris Pine, Casey Affleck, Holliday Grainger. Directed by Craig Gillespie. Rated PG-13. Opens Friday.

Rescue-at-sea drama The Finest Hours takes place in 1952, and much of the movie feels like it could have been produced in the same era. That’s not necessarily a bad thing—this kind of crowd-pleasing true-life story about the triumph of the human spirit is well-served by being a bit hokey and old-fashioned, and aside from the CGI waves and rain, director Craig Gillespie (Million Dollar Arm) keeps things timeless (or, to be less generous, stodgy).

Star Chris Pine has the bland, square-jawed, all-American good looks of the movie stars of yore, and his performance as absurdly upstanding Coast Guard sailor Bernie Webber is a bit of a snooze, even when Bernie and his three-man crew are battling giant waves off the coast of Massachusetts in an effort to rescue the stranded crew of a destroyed oil tanker. But Pine is well-balanced by Casey Affleck as Ray Sybert, the tanker’s prickly but resourceful chief engineer, whose ingenuity and determination help keep the rest of his crew alive. Affleck invests Sybert with an off-kilter integrity that adds some much-needed nuance to the rather broad writing (inevitably, at one point someone declares, “Not on my watch!”).

There’s some decent suspense to the complementary stories of Webber and his crew attempting to reach the tanker, while Sybert leads his own crew in increasingly desperate attempts to remain above water. The plight of Webber’s fiancée Miriam (Holliday Grainger) back on land is much less compelling, full of standard-issue handwringing and grandstanding, with Eric Bana sporting an inscrutable accent as the arrogant Coast Guard commander who doesn’t understand the local seafaring dangers.

But those are mostly just distractions from the main event of hardy men persevering against all odds, and the movie delivers the expected excitement, slathered in an uplifting score and a few platitudes about courage. It’s the same kind of workmanlike family fare that Disney has been producing for decades, and whether in 1952 or in 2016, it generally succeeds in its modest ambitions.

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