Action Drama

'The Finest Hours' Film Review: A harrowing story of high seas heroism

January 29, 2016Ben MK

Hollywood has a long-running fascination with maritime disasters, from Titanic to The Perfect Storm, and most recently, In the Heart of the Sea. Now comes the latest film to trade on moviegoers' appetite for stories of seafaring heroism, The Finest Hours, a movie that tells the harrowing true story of what is considered the most daring rescue in U.S. Coast Guard history.

Set in 1952, the film is an account of the events of February 18th, when a monstrous nor'easter split the T2 oil tanker the SS Pendleton in two off the coast of Cape Cod, Massachusetts. But the Pendleton wasn't just the victim of Mother Nature's fury that night — she was also the victim of bad timing, for another T2, the SS Fort Mercer, had also been torn asunder just hours earlier, some 30 miles away. As a result, most of the Coast Guard's nearby resources had already been dispatched to the Fort Mercer's location, leaving the Pendleton's remaining crew praying for a miracle.

That miracle came in the form of a four-man rescue operation out of Wellfleet, Massachusetts, where Coast Guardsmen Bernie Webber, Richard Livesey and Andy Fitzgerald, along with sailor Ervin Maske, set out into the choppy waters of the Atlantic in a small CG 36500 lifeboat, braving gale-force winds to reach the Pendleton and the thirty-odd men onboard. Meanwhile, aboard the Pendleton's precariously-afloat stern, engineer Ray Sybert and the rest of the survivors were doing what they could to keep what was left of their ship from sinking to the ocean floor.

Directed by Craig Gillespie and adapted by Scott Silver, Paul Tamasy and Eric Johnson from the 2007 book by Michael Tougias and Casey Sherman, The Finest Hours casts Chris Pine as Webber and Casey Affleck as Sybert, with a narrative that alternates between the stories of both men as they're forced to become the leaders that the situation so desperately demands. But while both Pine and Affleck do a fine job portraying their characters, their arcs feel somewhat underwhelming, with little in the way of emotional substance to keep the story afloat.

The same goes for the time the movie spends focusing on Webber's relationship with his fiancée Miriam (Holiday Grainger). Intercutting sequences set on the water with scenes set on dry land, Gillespie makes a point of showing Miriam, a fiesty switchboard operator, defying the societal norms of the era and butting heads with Webber's commander (Eric Bana) in an attempt to bring her husband-to-be home. Ultimately, however, her actions are for naught, as she just ends up one of the townspeople gathered on the pier, awaiting our heroes' safe return.

The supporting cast also includes the likes of Ben Foster, Outlander's Graham McTavish and House of Cards' Rachel Brosnahan. But, of course, the main star of The Finest Hours is the VFX work of effects house MPC, whose digital artists were responsible for creating the churning waves and stormy skies that menace the actors throughout the film. Without them, the movie wouldn't be nearly as entertaining, which is to say that while the story itself may be lacking, the experience of The Finest Hours is still more than thrilling enough to merit a trip to the multiplex.

The Finest Hours releases January 29th, 2016 from Walt Disney Pictures. The film has an MPAA rating of PG-13 for intense sequences of peril. Its runtime is 1 Hr. 57 Mins.

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