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poster_finesthoursThe Finest Hours did not make for the finest two hours of a movie. It took too long to get going with anything interesting after 20 minutes of what was shaping up to be a Nicholas Sparks movie.

Fitting into the theme of Disaster Movies from my self and movie writing cohort Brian G. Felts, The Finest Hours tells Disney’s version of the true life happening now known as the most dangerous and daring rescue in U.S. Coast Guard history. Just after being engaged, guardsman Bernie Webber, played by Chris Pine (Into the Woods), is ordered to take the last remaining boat off the coast of Cape Cod after an oil tanker split in two during a 1952 blizzard. With only three others on his team, the small vessel loses its compass and radio communications along the way, making finding the surviving half of the oil tanker a miracle, let alone saving its remaining crew members. Meanwhile, on the split tanker, engineer Ray Sybert, played by Casey Affleck (Gone Baby Gone), desperately attempts to save himself and his crewmates from having their half tanker sink into the deadly waters of the storm before they have a chance to be rescued.

This movie was terribly annoying to me. The first 20 minutes focused on Webber meeting and courting his future fiancee, played by Holliday Grainger (Cinderella). Like I mentioned, it was as slow and boring as the first 20 minutes of a Nicholas Sparks’ movie. It focused on their romance which was very dry and not interesting.

Things got interesting finally when the tanker split in two. There was action finally and the way the crew discovers the tanker was split was very effective. Once Webber and his crew gets out on the waters, their journey was basically the viewer watching one adversity after another, their portion of the movie–as action sequences go–was interesting but not very exciting. For me at least, it wasn’t as exciting as the sequences involving the broken oil tanker and its crew. After a while, I found myself impatiently waiting for more tanker scenes when following the guardsmen and Webber’s fiancée.

The sequences following Webber’s fiancée on land while the guardmen are on their mission were painful. I so didn’t care for this girl or what she was learning, finding or dealing with on land. It’s simply not her story and screen time devoted to her perspective was a waste in my opinion.

The story itself is hard to believe but that’s why it’s a great true story. The end credits show several archived photographs and newspaper headlines to show the true aspects of the movie’s plot. It’s impressive to say the least, but like I said, given its hard to believe, it hurts the movie a bit. How the hell did the rescue team find that tanker with no radio guidance or compass? And once they were loaded up with 32 guys on a boat only regulated for 12, how the hell did Webber find their way back to the same place they left or even the cape at all without navigation? How didn’t they end up on the coast of Greenland? That would make the same amount of sense. It was a tough story to swallow.

In lieu of performances, Pine did fine. Affleck started to get on my nerves. He was so tired and depressed all the damn time. It was like having Eeore in the engine room. But at least he was consistent.

The best part of the movie was some of the shot selections, with credit to director Craig Gillespie (Million Dollar Arm, Lars and the Real Girl). A handful of the visuals took the action from above water, cresting below and back up top with editing. The visual effects complimented Gillespie’s vision quite well. Visually, nothing took me out of the story. It’s the material with which I had issues.

Overall, this movie was far too boring to call it interesting or even worth seeing. I appreciate it documenting an interesting story of U.S. Coast Guard history, but as a movie it was this side of suck.

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poster_interstellarDirector Christopher Nolan hadn’t done much besides his Dark Knight trilogy with Christian Bale until this movie. But what’s nice to know is he hadn’t lost his touch with a heavy drama/mystery having submerged himself in the world of comic book superheroes and villains for so long.

In fact, I’d say he pretty much showed himself to be a master of his craft with this one.

Set in the future when the Earth quickly becomes uninhabitable, Interstellar is about a team of space explorers which jumps a wormhole searching for a handful of predecessors seeking a new planet for the human race to colonize. Cooper, played by Matthew McConaughey (Magic Mike), must leave his young daughter Murph, the adult version played by Jessica Chastain (The Martian), behind while searching space for this data and ends up stuck in exploration for more than 70 Earth years.

Meanwhile, his now adult daughter learns of a harrowing misleading covering up on Earth which leaves the human race without any hope of survival and gets to work on the secrets of the universe which will prove her father’s work and sacrifice were not in vain.

What I love most about this movie is how is poses a very difficult question, especially if you have kids. Would you abandon your child during a time of need in an attempt to save the rest of humanity? This was what kept me engaged in this extremely lengthy story (almost three hours). Nolan’s pacing seemed deliberate to show the agonizing loss of time between Cooper and his kids, especially his daughter. What’s more, even after Cooper’s work and sacrifice is proven successful, he doesn’t see the end result being worth the sacrifice. He is destroyed by what the mission did to his relationship with his Murph and Nolan does a great job making us feel as torn up as Cooper. It really helps the viewer question the importance of the greater good.

Another reason why the film is so long is the amount of twists involved. First, it’s the adversity from the finding different explorer scouts and learning their successful or unsuccessful data. Second, it’s the massive cover up using people’s hope as a tool against them. Third, it’s discovering the secret between time and space which started Cooper and Murph’s discovery of the word Stay in Murph’s room when she was a child. Lastly, it’s the movie’s final sequences which shows the importance of not only what Cooper achieved and sacrificed but also what adult Murph achieved having learned her father had been duped into taking the mission in the first place.

As all these storylines unfold over three hours, including a little subplot involving Cooper’s son, played by Casey Affleck (Run Baby Run), practically going crazy and holding his family hostage, the viewer has plenty to keep his mind occupied.

With all this material to attack without confusing anyone and keeping both heart in mind invested, this is where Nolan’s true abilities as a writer-director are spotlighted. You can’t mention Christopher Nolan’s art without giving props to brother and co-writer Jonathan Nolan (The Dark Knight, The Prestige, Memento). From a scriptwriting standpoint, the pair of them reach near genius level with this latest collaboration.

These types of lengthy complex sci-faux movies, if they are a good product, require a good sales team. That means the cast must be top notch. This is maybe my favorite performance by McConaughey. My interest in the story truly rests on how destroyed he is watching his daughter have to grow up bitter and broken because he left to “save the world.” I really had a good grasp where his character was inside at all times. Anne Hathaway (The Intern) was a great support to his leading role. She did great and keeping her character questionable; was she a part of this cover up or just as used as Cooper? Her performance helped sell the mystery element. Chastain’s bitterness and contempt on both personal and scientific levels was well founded and carried out perfectly. I truly felt her inner conflicts myself. Simply, there wasn’t a low point in the cast whatsoever.

If it’s any indication of the quality of this film, I HATE Sci-Fi and Sci-Faux movies generally. I feel the genre takes advantage of its viewer having to suspend disbelief to add ridiculous plot points and character arcs. They use their own genre as an excuse to not be accountable to its audience and justify their flaws. However, Interstellar supercedes these flaws and conventional a Sci-Fi and Sci-Faux techniques. It’s a human story about emotional and anthropological survival.

And if you have kids, especially a daddy with a little girl, this movie will tear you apart. It’s long but it’s well worth it.

 

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