Based on a true story, and set off the coast of Massachusetts in the winter of 1952, The Finest Hours (12A) stars Chris Pine as coastguard officer Bernie Webber, who sails his lifeboat out into the teeth of the one of the century’s worst storms in a bid to rescue the crew of an oil tanker that has been ripped in half.
The Finest Hours 5/5
Triple 9 4/5
How to be Single 3/5
On board the tanker is engineer Ray Sybert (Casey Affleck), who becomes the de facto leader when the tanker’s captain is borne off by the massive waves.
Director Craig Gillespie makes terrific use of parallel storylines to ramp up the tension here: Webber’s attempt to simply get out of harbour provides the movie with one of its most gripping scenes; meanwhile, on board the tanker, Sybert is doing everything he can to keep his men alive for as long as he can, despite the fatalism that pervades his crew, who have no idea if rescue is even on the way.
That double dynamic would very likely have been enough in itself to sustain the story, but what gives The Finest Hours an impressive edge is the way in which Pine (best known for playing Captain Kirk in the Star Trek reboot) and Affleck go about portraying their respective heroes.
Instead of the traditional larger-than-life characters we might expect, we get men who are refreshingly humble, meek and professionally diligent.
Throw in some gob-smacking CGI scenes of the Atlantic at its most destructive, and you have a feel-good action adventure that will take some beating this year.
Triple 9 (16s) stars Chiwetel Ejiofor and Anthony Mackie as Terrell and Marcus, a couple of Atlanta cops who moonlight as bank raiders.
Their double lives are complicated enough, but this thriller finds the cops-cum-robbers under the thumb of an especially ruthless family of Russian mafia, headed by Irina (Kate Winslet), who need Terrell and Marcus to steal some incriminating files being held in a Homeland Security facility.
Into this hornet’s nest wanders the unsuspecting Chris (Casey Affleck), a newbie cop assigned from another department, and the ideal patsy in Terrell and Marcus’s dirty scheme to create a diversion for their virtually impossible heist by pulling a ‘triple 9’ — the shooting down of a fellow police officer.
Directed by John Hillcoat (The Road, The Proposition), Triple 9 is a relentlessly pacy and tortuously twisting thriller.
Cynical in tone, it also serves as a brutally direct critique of violence in film — there is little by way of slo-mo pans or balletically artistic gunplay on show here, with the regular eruptions of violence occurring with shocking abruptness.
Woody Harrelson, playing a veteran detective (and Chris’s uncle), puts in a quirky, offbeat turn that appears to be at odds with the otherwise straight-bat mood, but for the most part the ensemble cast is uniformly excellent (with Kate Winslet stealing the laurels as the remorseless Mafia Queenpin) as they combine to propel this compelling thriller towards its explosive climax.
How To Be Single (15A) opens with Alice (Dakota Johnson) newly arrived in New York, on a break from her long-term relationship with Josh (Nicholas Braun).
Taking a job at a legal firm, she is befriended by Robin (Rebel Wilson), who delights in showing Alice how to be single.
This, according to Robin, appears to involve getting drunk a lot and throwing yourself at men in a ‘sexual rumspringer’, but to be fair, Christian Ditter’s bawdy rom-com doesn’t have any pretensions in the subtlety department (when Alice first arrives in New York, the soundtrack is playing Taylor Swift’s ‘Welcome to New York’).
Other women learning how to live with the social pressures of being unattached are Meg (Leslie Mann), a gynaecologist and Alice’s older sister; and Lucy (Alison Brie), a woman who has worked out the perfect algorithm to ensure that her internet dating will turn up Mr Right Now.
Fans of Bridesmaids will find much of How To Be Single familiar, although the jokes aren’t quite as funny (and some, due to Rebel Wilson reprising her stompy-shouty schtick in pretty much every movie, you’ll have seen variations of before), but there’s plenty to enjoy: Alison Brie’s manically organised Lucy has an endearingly innocent charm, and the always excellent Leslie Mann’s cynical but brittle carapace melts away when the easy-going, wide-eyed romantic Ken (Jake Lacy) hoves into view.
Indeed, these minor characters are far more interesting than the main players here, and the story, which has a bad habit of allowing characters to drop out of sight for extended periods of time, devotes far too much time to the rather bland and predictable Alice and her irritating sidekick Robin.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved