What It’s About
This is exactly your dad’s old-fashioned date movie. “The Finest Hours” is a real-life heroic tale of Average Joes triumphing against impossible odds, not unlike the rugged yet corny studio pictures of the 1950s.
On the infamous stormy night of Feb. 18, 1952, U.S. Coast Guardsmen rescued 32 stranded sailors from a shipwrecked oil tanker near Cape Cod. To date, it remains the most historic small boat rescue of all-time.
The Boston-bound SS Pendleton had split in half during a major nor’ easter storm. First assistant engineer Ray Sybert (Casey Affleck) went into disaster mode, getting the guys to work together and ride out the storm, sometimes using unorthodox methods.
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The U.S. Coast Guard Station in Chatham, Mass., is called into emergency service. Warrant Officer Daniel Cluff (Eric Bana) sends four third-ranked officers out in a wooden lifeboat in blizzard conditions in what everyone figures is a suicide mission, but somehow, diligent Capt. Bernie Webber (Chris Pine) rises to the challenge.
In raging waters, their compass broke, their windshield shattered, they faced 60-foot waves and hurricane-force winds, but they managed to get men on to a boat and to safety.
A remarkable story with crowd-pleasing appeal, the guys deserved better than the ham-handed movie that resulted. Workmanlike director Craig Gillespie (“Million Dollar Arm”) can’t make the script’s stale stereotypes special enough.
Chris Pine (“Star Trek”) is understated as the likable Webber, an unassuming, decent guy romancing nice girl Miriam (Holliday Grainger).
She loyally stands by her man in this dangerous situation. They try to pump up the romantic angle, but it’s rather plain for cinematic purposes.
Casey Affleck, Oscar nominee for “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford,” is an unlikely hero, too.
Providing sturdy support as the motorboat quartet are Ben Foster (“Lone Survivor”) as cynical Richard Livesey, John Magaro (“Carol”) as Navy man Ervin Manske and Kyle Gallner (“American Sniper”) as Andy Fitzgerald.
John Ortiz (“The Drop”), Abraham Benrubi (“ER”) and Beau Knapp as Mel Gouthro are on the doomed tanker. (Gouthro and Fitzgerald are two characters still alive, who were consultants on the film.)
The period details are impressive, perfectly capturing the era. The action depicted is harrowing, particularly with the massive 3-D waves. These guys — cold, wet and very brave – are noble, but the drama seems stretched out and forced.
What Doesn’t Work
Difficulties in clarity are a problem other seafaring films tend to share — “A Perfect Storm” comes to mind. The skies are blue-gray, the water grayish green, and it takes over.
The memorable story is what pulls people in, and the actors try their darndest, but for staying power, the execution needed more excitement.
“The Finest Hours”
- Director: Craig Gillespie
- Cast: Chris Pine, Casey Affleck, Ben Foster, Eric Bana, Holliday Grainger, Kyle
- Gallner, John Magaro and John Ortiz
- Rated PG-13 (intense sequences of peril)
- 117 minutes