The Finest Hours (2016)

The Finest Hours (2016)
  • Time: 117 min
  • Genre: Action | Drama | History
  • Director: Craig Gillespie
  • Cast: Chris Pine, Casey Affleck, Ben Foster, Holliday Grainger, Eric Bana


In February of 1952, one of the worst storms to ever hit the East Coast struck New England, damaging an oil tanker off the coast of Cape Cod and literally ripping it in half. On a small lifeboat faced with frigid temperatures and 70-foot high waves, four members of the Coast Guard set out to rescue the more than 30 stranded sailors trapped aboard the rapidly-sinking vessel.


  • There are films that are both well-told and well-crafted, films that are perfectly fine, at times even excellent, but won’t linger in the memory. The Finest Hours is such a film. Sturdy and steadfast and resolutely old-fashioned, it recounts the little-known and daring 1952 rescue of the surviving crewmen of the SS Pendleton by a four-man Coast Guard team.

    Taking place off the coast of Massachusetts, the film begins with Bernie Webber (Chris Pine) gearing up for his first face-to-face meeting with Miriam (Holliday Grainger), a woman he’s gotten to know over the phone for the past several weeks. This opening passage establishes several things. Firstly, Grainger is a vision of loveliness and a genuine talent. Miriam could have easily been a thankless part, but Grainger injects the character with a feistiness of spirit and a beguiling brashness. Secondly, Bernie is shown to be an upstanding man, one who abides by the rules and regulations, and one whose confidence has been compromised by a previous failure.

    A year passes before the two agree to marry (Miriam is the one who proposes to Bernie). As he musters the courage to ask his commanding officer (Eric Bana) for permission to take time off for a wedding, the Coast Guard receive word that two tankers have both been split down the middle as a result of a vicious nor’easter. Most of the Coast Guard have been deployed to the SS Fort Mercer because it’s less of a suicide mission so when the commanding officer finally makes the decision to send out a search and rescue team to the SS Pendleton, there’s only Bernie and his makeshift crew: Richard Livesey (Ben Foster), Andrew Fitzgerald (Kyle Gallner), and Ervin Maske (John Magaro), a seaman who happened to be at the outpost for the night. Bernie must steer his small rescue ship past the brutal Chatham Bar waves in order to make it onto the open ocean, where relatively less turbulent waters await.

    Meanwhile, the survivors of the severed Pendleton are being led by an unlikely figure – Ray Sybert (Casey Affleck), the boat’s chief engineer whose bookwormish tendencies are at odds with the rest of the men’s more reactionary natures. They’re not exactly thrilled to be taking orders from this scrawny single guy who believes running the ship aground might be their best chance for survival.

    Director Craig Gillespie does a fine job cross-cutting between the two narratives. Despite all the hustle and bustle, there is a leanness to the scenes that maintains and even enhances the momentum. The rescue sequences at sea are appropriately disorienting and well-staged. The scene in which Bernie and his crew are battered by one giant wave after another after another is especially harrowing.

    The supporting cast are solid, though Bana puzzles with a patchy Southern drawl. Affleck, a Boston native who wisely does not employ a broad New England accent like most of the cast, is a standout. It takes a while to get used to Pine’s subdued performance; one can sense the effort behind the earnestness. Yet the portrayal grows on you. Bernie’s fear of another failure, his flickering resolve, the undisguised doubt in his voice as he rouses his crew to keep the faith – all are beautifully conveyed.

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  • “We’re sinking.”

    This looked like the movie “Titanic”. The iceberg was absent though. But still, the oil tanker was broken in two like a toothpick by the raging sea and went to the bottom of the ocean. There was also a romance. Only this didn’t happen aboard of the sinking ship. The final result is a Disney disaster movie, suitable for couples. The female audience can melt away because of the love story. A tribute to invincible love and a prove that infinite love can overcome every pesky obstacle. An example of how kindred spirits can find each other telepathically and use each other as a beacon to be united again. I never expected that such beacons consist of a row of old-timers with their headlights directed to the ocean. The male audience can enjoy the exciting rescue operation initiated by an engineer. His ingenious plan was to run the broken ship aground on a sandbank. Expect some nerve-racking scenes and liters of salt water.

    The fact that this is a Disney product, means that it also contains a happy ending. Well, most Disney films have one. Those who have expertise in maritime history, will know that this film is about a true incident in 1952. The US Coast Guard successfully conducted one of the most daring rescue operations. Guardian angel on duty is Bernard Webber (Chris “Z for Zachariah” Pine). The way he maneuvers his lifeboat CG36500 over a treacherous sandbar, endangering his own and his crew’s life, is beautifully filmed and a thrilling moment. A hallucinatory boat trip over (and under) giant waves, which reminded me of “The Perfect Storm”. A successful interpretation by Chris Pine as the colorless, timid little officer who grows out to be a determined and heroic captain. Casey “Out of the furnace” Affleck also played a brilliant part as the introverted Ray Sybert who usually hides in the lower levels of the SS Pendleton and who manages to save the ship temporarily in a resourceful way. A subdued and sober character. Personally, I think this is one of his better performances.

    Unfortunately a dose of romance was necessary again. And this in the form of telephone operator Miriam (Holliday Grainger). A spry woman with a big mouth. It was as if she was the founder of the feminist movement. She asks her boyfriend to marry her (probably unseen and unacceptable in those days) and briefly wants to have her say in this male bastion ruled by the Coast Guard. She hadn’t taken officer Cluff (Eric “Deliver us from Evil” Bana) into account, who threw her out immediately. The only thing Mary could do was to hope and pray (together with the other women) that her future husband would return safe and sound.

    The most annoying thing during the exciting rescue, were those intermissions where they showed the desperation and fear of the housewives who stayed behind. As a result, the rising tension was constantly interrupted. The only thought I had was “Why don’t you just go cook something and wait patiently?”. At least I could have enjoyed the action on the halved ship. That and the ridiculous, sentimental ending (they ignored the hero completely) were the reason that I finally thought this movie wasn’t so great.

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