Here's an odd thing to say of a lavishly expensive 3D IMAX maritime disaster flick that hits theaters just a month after the last one: They don't make them like this anymore. There's a reason for that, of course — the parents and grandparents who like 'em stolid and corny don't flood the theaters opening weekend. But they'll be in luck when The Finest Hours pops up on TBS. As if hopped up on its own heroes' last-century can-do zeal, Craig Gillespie's earnest, square-jawed period piece gets its familiar rescue-drama done.
No obstacle will stop Gillespie's crowd pleasing: our weariness, just weeks after In the Heart of the Sea, of the undulations of CGI tidal waves? The Finest Hours makes them a highlight in a lurching, dizzying set piece that in suspense and imaginative brio bests last year's superhero flicks. Our American Sniper–era skepticism of simple stories in which our armed forces face down the impossible and straight-up triumph? The Finest Hours has the chutzpah to sell us Chris Pine as the runt of the 1952 Coast Guard and then have him go against regulations and the orders of a know-nothing bureaucrat (Eric Bana!) to save 32 men from a shattered oil tanker. Even the title rebukes Michael Bay's America-loses flop 13 Hours.
Gillespie wins out over a script larded with story beats so old they got parodied in the original Airplane! Just as Pine's Bernie Webber grits his teeth and pilots his 36-foot Coast Guard boat into seas that rise up like angry gods, Gillespie steers head on into cliches. Stick with him, and you'll be rewarded with taut sequences of desperate decision-making.