"Do your job." These three words summarize the fundamental theme running through The Finest Hours , a modestly old-fashioned disaster film about a daring Coast Guard rescue off the coast of Cape Cod in 1951. Survival can only be achieved by working in tandem with others toward a greater goal. Panic gets you killed.
Events unfold not in sensational fashion but as a procedural, where small moments of action are given just as much weight as those resonating with drama. Director Craig Gillespie crosscuts between the tactile efforts of those operating on land and at sea, giving each side equal billing.
Faced with insurmountable odds, Bernie Webber (Chris Pine) captains a small vessel through brutal weather to save the survivors of an oil tanker that has split in half. Meanwhile, resident expert machinist Ray Sybert (Casey Affleck) does his best MacGyver impression trying to keep his half of the vessel from capsizing.
Much of the first hour crackles with high-wire intensity as the soft-spoken Sybert tries to calm his mutinous crew and jerry-rig a makeshift steering system for the crippled tanker. On shore, Webber's clash with protocol and local dissonance feels less immediate and convincing.
The Finest Hours , which opens on Friday, Jan. 29, dances between muscular naval film and weepy melodrama. Gillespie's visual style shows flashes of life during an unbroken shot that finds the camera careening through the various corridors of the ship as important information travels from topside to engine room. It's reminiscent of a similarly tense, long take in his often-superb Fright Night remake.
Eventually the film becomes less interested in the machinations of survival and more concerned with triumphant hero worship. Pine, Affleck and the rest of the character-actor heavy cast try to instill these characters with nuance and doubt, but ultimately a heavy-handed finale overwhelms what's left of their admirable work.
45 Years : Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtnay play an elderly couple whose marriage is threatened when a past trauma comes creeping back into their lives.
Fifty Shades of Black : The Wayans Brothers strike again with another unfunny, sexist, racist, poorly made spoof that’s deathly out of fashion.
Jane Got a Gun : Natalie Portman stars as a vengeful woman who confronts the cold-blooded killers threatening to murder her louse of a husband.
Kung Fu Panda 3 (3D) : Po (Jack Black), the soft-bellied butt kicking panda, must face his greatest challenge yet when a supernatural force threatens his friends.
Lazer Team : Inspired by 1980s style sci-fi comedies, this film tells the story of four misfits who must use an alien technology to save the world. Opens Friday, Jan. 29, at the AMC Mission Valley Cinemas.
2016 Oscar Shorts : This collection of short films is nominated for the Academy Awards in the Live Action and Animated categories. Opens Friday, Jan. 29, at the Ken Cinema.
The Finest Hours : Chris Pine plays a brave coastguardsman who leads a small crew into the rough waters off of Cape Cod to rescue the sailors on a marooned oil tanker.
One time only
Caddyshack : A destructive gopher and a vulgar golfer take a posh country club by storm in this classic sports comedy starring Chevy Chase and Bill Murray. Screens at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 27, at the Arclight Cinemas La Jolla.
Pretty Woman: Richard Gere’s cold businessman finds true love with Julia Roberts’ hooker with a heart of gold. Screens at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 27, at The Pearl Hotel in Point Loma.
Viva la LibertaÌ€ : When an embattled Italian politician disappears, the man’s assistant convinces his twin brother to take over his duties until he can be found. Screens at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 28, at the Museum of Photographic Arts in Balboa Park.
Burnt : Bradley Cooper and Siena Miller star in this drama about a self-destructive chef who makes a career comeback after nearly destroying his life with drugs and alcohol. Screens at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Jan. 29 and 30, at Cinema Under the Stars in Mission Hills.
The Princess Bride : This is not your grandfather’s fairy tale. Screens at 11:55 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 30, at the Ken Cinema.
Groundhog Day : Bill Murray stars as a television weatherman who lives the same day over and over again. Bill Murray stars as a television weatherman who lives the same day over and over again. Bill Murray stars as a… Screens at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 3, at The Pearl Hotel in Point Loma.