But most of the capital-A acting comes courtesy of Casey Affleck. Batman's younger sibling has always been a welcome, understated screen presence -- he was excellent in The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford and in his bro's directorial debut, Gone Baby Gone -- but he's never been quite as affect-filled as he is here as first assistant engineer Ray Sybert. He mumbles. He looks at the ground. He slowly cracks an egg as he delivers monologues.
Though it can sometimes seem like he's been parachuted in from a better movie, Affleck is the reason the oil-tanker sections work so well. Unburdened with playing the romantic lead -- one of his shipmates describes him as "practically married" to the boat -- he seems to be channeling the mannered, oddball energy of his I'm Still Here collaborator Joaquin Phoenix. It's the type of strange performance that enlivens an otherwise sinking ship.
Bring on the CGI waves!
And this ship is sinking: Affleck's oil tanker, the S.S. Pendleton, is torn in half by epic, pulsating waves that would make the Red Sea blush. The movie cuts back and forth between Affleck's frantic, jargon filled attempts to keep the tanker afloat and Pine's ragtag group of sailors as they navigate tricky waters in a wooden lifeboat. Luckily, the movie doesn't disappoint on the special-effects front: these CGI waves are big and scary. Pine's boat looks like a crappy jet ski from Wave Race 64 trying to pass through a hurricane. It's occasionally thrilling, and, as it draws closer to the conclusion, the movie does take on a Spielberg-ian grandeur.