Directed by Craig Gillespie. Starring Chris Pine, Casey Affleck, Ben Foster, Holliday Grainger, Eric Bana, John Ortiz.
THE PLOT: In February 1952, a blizzard hit the coast of Cape Cod. Two tankers split in half during the violent storm and Bernie Webber (Chris Pine) was part of a four-man crew sent out to try and rescue the crew of the stranded stern of the SS Pendleton.
THE VERDICT: ‘The Finest Hours’ is based on a remarkable true story; what kind of rotten fate deals the coast guard two tankers that split in half in one night!? The story focuses on Chris Webber – played by Chris Pine – the man who took charge of a tiny vessel that ultimately performed the greatest small boat rescue in US history.
Chris Pine leads the cast here and, like many of the characters, Bernie Webber is drawn broad and thin so as to be heroic but not all that remarkable. Pine brings charm to the role however, removing him from the more arrogant and over the top roles we are used to seeing the actor in. Casey Affleck leads the cast on the doomed SS Pendleton, as Ray Sybert, an engineer who manages to keep the stern of the shop afloat for several hours after the ship breaks apart. Affleck makes Sybert the strong and silent type, and this again is a change of pace for the actor, although he doesn’t have a lot to do on an emotional level. The rest of the cast features Holliday Grainger, Eric Bana, Ben Foster, John Ortiz, and Rachel Brosnahan.
Scott Silver, Paul Tamasy and Eric Johnson’s screenplay is based on Casey Sherman and Michael J. Tougias’ book of the same name, but doesn’t seem to want to flesh the characters out, nor make them anything more than carriers for the story. Since it is fairly clear that this story is going to have a tense journey but a happy ending, this is not surprising, but it is a little disappointing to see the lead female role reduced to worrying about her man, and none of the coast guard or sailors given much to do. Also, having the sailor who consistently sings “Sit Down, You’re Rocking the Boat” (from ‘Guys and Dolls’) be the one that dies a horrific death is rather on the nose.
‘The Finest Hours’ is director Craig Gillespie’s third film for Disney after ‘Fright Night’ and ‘Million Dollar Arm’ – but doesn’t really make a mark on this film, instead it seems to be the waves and the CGI that direct the film, with Gillespie ramping up the tension now and again. Splitting the focus between the stricken ship and the coast guard seems like a good idea in terms of narrative, but it splits attention, and with another ship broken apart just miles away, it seems that this could have been included more in the film, although it has less of a happy ending.
In all, ‘The Finest Hours’ is a rather broad but serviceable disaster movie with a happy enough ending. The characters are less people than they are vessels to move the story forward, but there is some adventure to be had with the sea faring scenes. The scale of the rescue is what makes the film work, but more fleshed out characters would have made for a stronger film overall.
Review by Brogen Hayes

The Finest Hours
Review by Brogen Hayes
  • filmbuff2011

    Inspired by true events, The Finest Hours is an old-school disaster-and-rescue film from the unlikely Mouse House. It’s a straightforward everyday hero story that remains stirringly effective.

    The Massachusetts Coast, November 1952. Respected Coast Guard Bernie (Chris Pine) meets Miriam (Holliday Grainger), with whom he’s been talking to over the phone for the last three months. They develop their tender romance. Clouds are gathering though. A massive storm is hitting the frozen, windswept coastline. Out at sea, oil tanker the SS Pendleton suffers a hull rupture and splits in half. One half sinks but unlike the Titanic, the other half manages to stay afloat due to ballast. Engineer Ray (Casey Affleck) becomes the de facto leader of a disparate group of men. Some want to risk going out in a lifeboat – but as Ray bluntly demonstrates, the lifeboat will be smashed into matchsticks by the swells. Their only chance of survival is to run what’s left of the ship onto a shoal and stay afloat long enough for a rescue. That’s where Bernie comes in. Ordered by his boss Daniel (Eric Bana) and defying the odds of survival, he sets out with crew Richard (Ben Foster), Ervin (John Magaro) and Andy (Kyle Gallner) to save the desperate men on the stricken SS Pendleton. Meanwhile, an anxious Miriam waits for news…

    Working for the second time with Disney after his fish-out-of-water story Million Dollar Arm, director Craig Gillespie fashions an old-fashioned Saturday matinee – the kind that isn’t made much anymore. That makes it more refreshing than expected. It may feel familiar, with stock characters like the gruff sailor or the hardy seadog, but there’s a warm and cosy feeling about it. That makes the familiarity more forgivable. Everyone loves a hero story and this is some story allright. The heroism on display is beyond doubt, but Bernie, Ray and their crews remain ordinary and loyal to a fault. The performances are all fine – heroic without being showy, with Pine putting away the cocky Captain Kirk and making Bernie a commanding everyman.

    The real star of the show though is the storm itself. Using an impressive, seamless blend of live action, pyrotechnics and visual effects, you can almost feel the chills, the fire and the sea spray coming at you. Though, the 3D conversion doesn’t really add anything – other than muddy an already dark image (as usual). The storm is worth watching for the film alone. It’s surprisingly gritty for a Disney film – the kind that they used to make in the 80s, when they were more daring and experimental (like The Watcher In The Woods and Dragonslayer). There’s plenty of action here – and plenty of heart too. The Finest Hours is no wash-up – it’s certainly entertaining and comes with a light recommendation. ***

  • emerb

    “The Finest Hours” is a fast paced, man v’s nature survival thriller which is directed by Craig Gillsepie (“Lars and the Real Girl”, the “Fright Night” remake). Based on a true story, “The Finest Hours” depicts and dramatizes the Coast Guard rescue mission of the oil tanker, SS Fort Pendleton, that broke in two off the coast of Massachusetts during a particularly ferocious storm in 1952. There is no doubt that it was a daring rescue, accomplished against long odds, in the face of great hazards and lethal weather. In this film, the seemingly impossible mission is undertaken by four brave Coast Guardsmen led by a brave novice seaman named Bernie Webber (Chris Pine), a reserved and good man whose respectfulness toward women is matched by his adherence to rules and regulations.

    At the time of the disaster, the coast guard was undermanned because of another rescue operation but, in the chaos, an inexperienced new captain (Eric Bana) orders a group of four volunteer sailors out to locate the damaged ship, and affect a rescue – Bernie Webber (Chris Pine), Richard Livesey (Ben Foster), Andy Fitzgerald (Kyle Gallner), and Ervin Maske (John Magaro). With a small boat and crew, this is a courageous but essentially doomed task – a suicide mission on board a 36 foot lifeboat, in the dead-of-night ocean in search of the stricken vessel. The Pendleton lies beyond a sandbar that is impossible to navigate in churning seas, with massive waves that could flip their tiny vessel and kill them all.

    Meanwhile, on board the Pendleton is Casey Affleck’s Chief Engineer Sybert, who finds himself suddenly upgraded to captain and the terrified survivors on the Pendleton reluctantly follow his instructions. With no radio, no captain, failing engines, and dissension in the ranks, it falls to him to rally the survivors and keep the Pendleton above water long enough for the Coast Guard to mount their rescue mission.

    Most of film takes place on the night of the wreck and the rescue, and the screenwriters (Scott Silver, Paul Tamasy and Eric Johnson) tell the story by following three centres of action. First, there are the men on the ship, then the
    men on the rescue boat and finally the people on the land, where Bernie’s
    nervous fiancée Miriam (Holliday Grainger) waits with the rest of the townsfolk,
    hoping the lights of the village will guide the men at sea to safe harbor. Cutting from one centre of action to another helps build the atmosphere of mounting tension and suspense. I liked that the screenplay finds the optimal balance between following the Pendleton crew’s attempts to survive and telling the story of the four Coast Guard rescuers. The performances are good all round and there is just the right amount of character development. Chris Pine is sold as the socially awkward, soft-spoken, rule-following Bernie and he’s matched by Affleck, who commands the screen as Ray Sybert. Eric Bana only has a supporting role as Bernie’s unsympathetic, ill-prepared commander.

    Bearing many similarities to “The Perfect Storm” (2000), “The Finest Hours” is a breathtaking seafaring disaster story which will have you gripped for two hours. The visuals are strong and it won’t disappoint in terms of action, suspense or tension. This is pure old fashioned entertainment, balanced with an impressive array of CGI effects that give it modern-day feel. I went in expecting nothing
    much and came out more than satisfied.