ONE OF THE MOST infuriating laws of filmmaking is that a good story doesn't always turn into a good movie. The Finest Hours has a great story—the unbelievable rescue of the SS Pendleton's crew by the US Coast Guard during a brutal nor'easter—but it's sunk by unnecessary embroidery and an unpleasantly sappy script. When the movie sticks to the actual rescue, it's a white-knuckle adventure, but there's also a lot of bullshit the filmmakers should've tossed overboard.
That storm, in 1952, was strong enough to crack not one but two oil tankers in half. It remains unclear what happened to the other one and a half ships, but inside the stern of the Pendleton, engineer Ray Sybert (Casey Affleck) is the only one with any idea how to survive. Affleck's also the only person in the cast who can pull off a credible Boston accent, but otherwise the role simply requires a jaw, a forelock, and grim determination. This is fine. We don't need any distracting backstory or character arc.
No such luck with Bernie Webber (Chris Pine), who captained a tiny rescue boat through the blinding storm. I don't think Webber was an autistic narcoleptic, but Pine apparently does, because he can barely mumble a line without furtively shifting his gaze like a dog caught whizzing on the sofa. He sucks.
I think we're also supposed to love Webber's fiancée, Miriam, because the script suggests she's ugly (she's played by Holliday Grainger, who's not ugly at all). She's also incredibly dumb, and wastes a quarter of The Finest Hours' runtime wandering around the snowstorm without a coat on, fretting about Bernie, and driving her car into a snowdrift. The notion that her subplot can compete with a daring ship rescue is ludicrous. The at-sea sequences are mostly incredible—but whenever The Finest Hours hits land, it's deathly boring.