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The Finest Hours

The 5th Wave

January 28, 2016

The Finest Hours (**) PG 13

When I was a wee lad—I’ll date myself by stating it was the mid 1970s—one of my guilty pleasures were those made for television dramatizations of true events that were all the rage in those days. Titles such as Helter Skelter, Guyana Tragedy and Raid On Entebbe are a few springing to mind that stoked the flames of my burning passion for movies back in those formative years. While going through the motions of taking in The Finest Hours, a dramatization of a nearly forgotten maritime disaster that took place sixty plus years ago, I couldn’t help but think how it would have fit perfectly in place on TV screens back in the day. It tells its story economically but has no discernible sense of style and it fails to engage the audience with any of its characters on an emotional level. Technically it is, admittedly, a proficient film but it feels mechanical on every level, one of those studio-manufactured affairs (in this case Disney) that just never manages to engage as it should.

Part of the problem may be with the film’s director, Craig Gillespie, whose only solid film to date is the 2007 effort, Lars and the Real Girl.

Chris Pine in The Finest Hours

The rest of Gillespie’s resume is littered with such questionable efforts as the remake of Fright Night and the Disney film, Million Dollar Arm. Gillespie just comes across as such a workmanlike director that any personal connection that the audience may have with the characters is surely to occur as purely an accident.

The bulk of the film’s story transpires on the night of February 18, 1952. It was then that a fifty-mile an hour blizzard snapped apart two oil tankers right off the Massachusetts coast. The film narrows its focus to one of those tankers, The Pendleton, and the efforts of the US coast guard to rescue the crew who are stranded on board the ship. Unfortunately, the coast guard is saddled with a rather small wooden boat and a non-working compass, all of which makes the rescue efforts that much more difficult.

If the film had narrowed its focus down the bare bones of the story, namely the attempt to rescue the members of The Pendleton from certain icy death, then it may have worked better than the final result. Unfortunately, Gillespie and his filmmaking team decide to pad the story out with an unnecessary romantic subplot that feels shoehorned into the proceedings and heavy handed at the very least.

Technically, the film is sound and it does offer some thrills in 3-D and Imax. Also, the performances are generally good, particularly Chris Pine and Casey Affleck, who are essentially the male leads in the film. It’s just too bad that they didn’t have better material with which to work and are instead saddled with a formulaic cinematic take on events that proved more thrilling and suspenseful in the real world. 

The Finest Hour is playing in Hickory at the Carmike and throughout this area.

The 5th Wave • PG 13

By Jocelyn Noveck

AP National Writer

One major reason that young-adult fiction is so alluring — when done well — is that it gives youngsters such a fulfilling scenario of independence from those older adults in their lives who always think they’re smarter and stronger. That scenario is front and center in The 5th Wave, where every adult is either evil, inhuman (literally), or nice but helpless. It’s truly up to the young — make that the young, buff and good-looking — to save humanity.

But if this movie, starring Chloe Grace Moretz as the latest plucky teen to fight for our species, performs its appointed task with efficiency, it does little more.

Yes, the winsome Moretz is a fine, if one-note, reluctant heroine (the film’s based on Rick Yancey’s best-selling novel, and directed by J Blakeson). And she’s surrounded by more than one appealing young man (the YA action-film rulebook seems to dictate at least two, so we can have a triangle.) But the script has more than a few lines that should have been sent directly to rewrite, and there’s a nagging feeling throughout that we’ve sorta seen it all before.

Not that this will deter fans of Yancey’s book, which is the beginning of a trilogy, meaning we’re sure to see more of Moretz’s Cassie in years to come. She is, when we first meet her, a pretty perfect Ohio high schooler. Yes, she goes to a party and drinks beer and crushes on a cute football player named Ben. But then she goes home early and sings her little brother Sam to sleep.

The next day, life changes forever. A giant alien craft appears in the sky. For days, the Others, as the aliens are known, don’t make a move. Then come the four waves.

Alex Roe & Chloe Grace Moretz in The 5th Wave

First all power and technology is knocked out; planes and cars crash. Then giant tsunamis are unleashed, killing billions. Then there’s crippling disease, transmitted by birds and killing countless more. The fourth wave brings attackers to Earth in unexpected form, all building up to the climactic fifth wave.

Meanwhile, Cassie, her brother and father have left home for a refugee camp. Dad (Ron Livingston, noble and powerless) gives Cassie a gun. ``I thought we were safe here,’’ Cassie protests. ``Pumpkin,’’ he replies, ``nowhere’s safe anymore’’ (one of many lines you can recite before you even hear it). When the U.S. Army’s Col. Vosch (Liev Schreiber, inscrutable and calm here, perhaps a little too calm) orders youngsters onto a school bus to a military base, the family reluctantly agrees.

But Cassie and Sam are separated when Cassie runs back for Sam’s stuffed toy. Cassie is forced to follow on foot, a journey of many miles. On the way, she reluctantly kills a man, nearly gets killed herself by shooting attackers, and wakes up, wounded, in the house of a very cute guy named Evan (Alex Roe). Evan’s good looks, medical expertise and fighting skills almost make up for the fact that we can’t figure out quite who he is. (They don’t, though, make up for the triteness of many of his lines.)

But that’s a theme of the movie, people not being who they say they are — or not even being people, actually. The final act of the film sees Cassie and football player Ben (played by Nick Robinson, and recalling Nick Jonas) uniting to try to repel the evil forces from Earth.

Between the shooting and the running, these two have a sweet moment. Cassie explains that she was named after a constellation in the sky, Cassiopeia. Ben explains that he was named after Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. It’s a relief for us to actually laugh, and more such moments would have been welcome. It’s fine to save humanity and all, but what’s humanity without its sense of humor?

Two stars out of four.

This movie is playing in Hickory and all around the area.

Questions or comments? Write Adam at filmfan1970@hotmail.com.

 

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