Romance has never been a strong suit of the disaster genre. Films continue to miss the mark on how to create a meaningful and relatable love story in the midst of chaos.
While Disney’s new feature, “The Finest Hours,” is based on a true relationship, it struggles with this same issue despite being an intense and enjoyable disaster movie.
“The Finest Hours” is based on the true story of Coast Guard hero Bernie Webber, portrayed by Chris Pine (“Star Trek”). After an oil tanker is ripped in half by a storm, Webber puts aside his recent engagement to his girlfriend Miriam, played by Holliday Grainger (“Cinderella”), to risk his own life to save the lives of the stranded crew.
This movie gives the impression of being two separate films that have been haphazardly spliced together; a boring romance and an entertaining, intense disaster flick.
The tonal shift between these two ‘movies’ is shockingly harsh.
Every time the film transitions back to land, director Craig Gillespie (“The Million Dollar Arm”) slams the brakes on the action for something far less enjoyable.
The film starts out slow, focusing on the relationship between Pine and Grainger, which is a shame because neither are particularly invested or comfortable in their roles. Their romance is unconvincing, standing as the film’s major issue.
Simple mutual attraction isn’t enough to show that two characters are in love, and “The Finest Hours” isn’t willing to set aside the screen time needed to establish a relationship.
The love story between the leads lies in an awkward position. On the one hand, the weak romance lacks the necessary time to build depth and character. On the other, it takes up far too much of the film, ultimately distracting from where the film truly shines; the disaster itself.
The scenes that take place on the salvaged tanker are thrilling and terrifying.
These are the moments where Casey Affleck (“Interstellar”) steals the show, bringing a fantastic performance as the tanker’s engineer. He delivers his lines with such conviction, helping build the sense of desperation that surrounds the few remaining crew members as they fight for survival.
Even Chris Pine becomes more comfortable in his role the moment he sails out to rescue the stranded survivors.
So much prevents “The Finest Hours” from reaching the level of greatness it so desperately claws for. The uninteresting romance and the constant, jarring shift of tone hinders some truly spectacular, well-directed moments that take place on the raging sea. Yet, no matter how many problems arise, when this disaster film is an actual disaster film, it truly is impressive.