Synopsis: True story of a 1950’s Coast Guard crew’s high seas rescue attempt.
Based on its title, The Finest Hours, Disney’s latest live action film could be a story about any number of things…an afternoon spent at a chocolate factory, a snowy day spent binge watching, etc… In this case it’s an action adventure account of the heroic efforts of a four-man Coast Guard crew sent out into a killing Nor’Easter. FACT: A Nor’Easter is a storm affecting the northeastern United States. It’s formed when warmer air over the Atlantic hits Arctic cold from the north and west. It can be accompanied by hurricane force winds and heavy snow.
Before we are treated to the thrilling ocean scenes, we are treated to the sight of handsome Chris Pine who plays lead hero, Coast Guardsman Bernie Webber. The make-up pros attempt to tone down his extreme good looks with caveman-esque eyebrows. And the camera tries to avoid a direct gaze at his piercing blue eyes. Bernie is extremely shy, which we see demonstrated as he flusters his way through a first date with his future wife, Miriam (Holliday Granger). FACT: Miriam is a total cutie pie. She’s a 1950’s dream gal: pretty, sweet and devoted to her man.
In February of 1952, Bernie is working at a Coast Guard station in Chatham, Massachusetts when a Nor’Easter splits, not one, but two tankers apart. His commanding officer orders him to assemble a crew and set out in a wooden boat into deadly conditions to attempt a rescue of the Pendleton crew. (Larger boats, cutters, had already been dispatched to reach the Fort Mercer.) FACT: Conditions were dreadful… 40′ – 60′ wave heights…70 knot winds (about 80 miles per hour)…freezing horizontal snow…zero visibility at the wreck site.
A large part of the movie’s allure is the promise of spectacular storm scenes. Thankfully, Disney is generous with the talent and money needed to create a formidable CGI storm. Once out at sea, we see the men battle monster waves, the storm threatening to capsize them again and again.
Meanwhile, the men on the split tanker, the Pendleton, fight for their lives as the Atlantic ceaselessly inundates what’s left of the ship.The thirty-odd men are
reluctantly led by chief engineer Ray Sybert (Casey Affleck). For seemingly no reason, the men scorn him. Even though he is hard-working and basically mute, they seem to think that he puts on Joe College airs. There is even a lead jackass who disparages his attempts to keep the vessel afloat. But Ray manfully composes himself. And we know that he is steady under pressure because at one point he calmly peels a boiled egg while patiently explaining to the dunderheads that launching dinky lifeboats into seventy foot seas would not end well for them. FACT: Ray’s preternatural calm will come in handy when the other seamen panic. So who’s the tough guy now, fellas?!
While Bernie & crew plow on through the storm– against all odds of rescue or even surviving themselves– his girlfriend Cutie Pie and the townspeople gather at the shore, car headlights shining out to sea to show the way home. But do they have what it takes to make it? FACT: Disney wouldn’t call it The Finest Hours if they didn’t.
Cut to the Chase: Great visuals, not-so-great character development.
Comedy Highlight: Brave Bernie/Chris Pine is afraid to ask his boss for time off to marry Cutie Pie.