Dan's Review: "The Finest Hours" a fine tale of bravery
Chris Pine in The Finest Hours - © 2015 - Walt Disney Studios
The Finest Hours (Disney)
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of peril.
Starring Chris Pine, Holliday Grainger, Casey Affleck, Ben Foster, Kyle Gallner, Eric Bana, Rachel Brosnahan, Graham McTavish, John Magaro, Michael Raymond-James, Abraham Benrubi, Josh Stewart, Keiynan Lonsdale, Benjamin Koldyke.
Written by Scott Silver, Paul Tamasy and Eric Johnson based on the book by Michael J. Tougias and Casey Sherman.
Directed by Craig Gillespie.
When it comes to true stories in film, I usually brace myself for the “Wiki-disappointment” I feel after Googling the details of movies that are “based on” actual events. “Based on” is usually movie code for “we made up most of this.” By the way, if a movie prelude ever asserts, “The following is a true story,” then you can at least be assured that the movie is probably 90 percent true. The Finest Hours is one of those movies “based on” a true story, so I was skeptical that would have much to do with reality, other than being a story about a group of brave Coast Guard sailors involved in a daring rescue at sea. I was also hopeful that it might be an interesting movie.
The story centers around Bernie Webber (Chris Pine) a young member of the Coast Guard stationed at Chatham, Massachusetts in 1952. Newly engaged to his sweetheart Miriam (Holliday Granger), Bernie is highly regarded as a good guy. One fateful night in February, the oil tanker S.S. Pendleton rips in half during a major storm just off the coast. Local Coast Guard commander Cluff (Eric Bana) sends Bernie and three others out into the storm to rescue surviors still afloat in the stern section of the tanker. The hips engineer Sybert (Casey Affleck) uses all his knowledge and cunning to keep what’s left of the ship from going under as Bernie and his crew race to the rescue. With no visibility, a broken compass and incredible odds, Bernie and his crew reach the wreckage, but getting all 34 crew members back to shore safely in the waves 40 to 60 feet high proves to be an even more complicated task than anyone could imagine.
Let’s dispense first with the “true” dilemma. The Finest Hours is mostly true when dealing with the technical details of the actual rescue, right down to the key players and their roles. Some of the on-shore details are sketchy, including Miriam’s role during the ordeal (the couple was already married at the time, yet their pending engagement represents a bon fide MacGuffin). Other dialogue and events are clearly invented for the sake of drama, but the main narrative is not lost.
All historic details aside, The Finest Hours is a very tense, exciting and inspiring film while the main characters are at sea, but less so when they are on land. The special effects involving the brutal sea and the crippled remains of the S.S. Pendleton are visually compelling, creating a visceral sense of the ordeal. The set up preceding the sea rescue drags on for more than an hour, preventing the movie from getting its sea legs, while the conclusion feels a little rushed after Bernie and his crew reach the wreckage. These pacing errors aside, The Finest Hours is fine movie about a brave group of men who deserve recognition.
The Finest Hours Trailer