Action Adaptation

'The Finest Hours' Blu-ray Review: Thrilling action sequences keep this maritime drama afloat

May 24, 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, The Finest Hours is an account of the events of February 18th, 1952, when a small lifeboat set out into the choppy waters off the coast of Cape Cod, Massachusetts. Aboard it, Coast Guardsmen Bernie Webber, Richard Livesey and Andy Fitzgerald, along with sailor Ervin Maske. Their mission: to rescue engineer Ray Sybert and the rest of the 33-man crew of the SS Pendleton, a T2 oil tanker that had been split in two by a monstrous nor'easter.

Directed by Craig Gillespie and adapted by Scott Silver, Paul Tamasy and Eric Johnson from the book by Michael Tougias and Casey Sherman, what follows is a straightforward rescue drama. Casting Chris Pine as Bernie Webber and Casey Affleck as Ray Sybert, The Finest Hours alternates between the stories of both men, as they're each forced to take control of their respective situations. Meanwhile, back on dry land, Bernie's fiesty fiancée, Miriam (Holiday Grainger), butts heads with his commander (Eric Bana), in an attempt to bring her husband-to-be home.

The supporting cast also includes Ben Foster, Outlander's Graham McTavish and House of Cards' Rachel Brosnahan. But, ultimately, the real stars of The Finest Hours are the visual effects created by 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 Finest Hours is still more than thrilling enough to merit at least one viewing.

When it comes to its Blu-ray A/V quality, The Finest Hours lives up to its name, delivering an experience that ought to satisfy most home viewers. This 1080p image is crisp, boasting a fair amount of detail in faces and environments, right down to the water droplets on the actors' clothing; colors are nicely saturated, taking on either a bluish hue, a greenish hue or a more earth-toned hue, depending on the scene; and despite the fact that some scenes set in the bowels of the Pendleton come across as somewhat murky, black and contrast levels are strong overall. The visuals are accompanied by a primary DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 track that outputs crystal-clear dialogue and music, but which is at its best when filling the air with the sound of gusty winds, thrashing waves and creaking metal.

Disney's one-disc Blu-ray release includes an iTunes digital copy and the following Blu-ray extras:

  • Against All Odds: The Bernie Webber Story (14:10) - A piece about the real-life rescue mission depicted in the film, focusing on the real-life Bernie Webber and the legacy that he left behind.
  • Deleted Scenes (4:28) - Two scenes ("A Desperate Idea" and "The Story of How They Met").
  • Brotherhood (1:49) - A brief featurette touting the camaraderie among the actors, as well as their characters.
  • Two Crews (2:02) - Another brief featurette, this time highlighting both the rescue crew and the crew aboard the Pendleton.
  • What is Your Finest Hour? (1:02) - U.S. Coast Guard Captain Jennifer Williams talks about her own most memorable rescue mission.
  • The Finest Inspiration: The U.S. Coast Guard (1:42) - A promotional piece for the United States Coast Guard.

The Finest Hours is available from Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment as of April 24th, 2016. The Blu-ray features English DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1, French and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1, and English Dolby Digital 2.0 Descriptive Audio tracks. The film is presented with English SDH, French and Spanish subtitles. The total runtime is 1 hr. 57 mins.

* Reviewer's note: Portions of this Blu-ray review were adapted from my original review of the theatrical release, published on January 29th, 2016.

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