Excellent. The Finest Hours is a film about heroes--real in your face 3D IMAX heroes. Our Coast Guard. Their humility and selflessness deserve the highest praise.
Take two friends so that you can talk, grab elbows and applaud as you watch seventy foot waves about to destroy four men in a 36 foot lifeboat while they try to rescue seamen on the missing 500 foot oil tanker, the SS Pendleton. Sit still, you will not!
Early on you learn these seventy foot waves have ripped two oil tankers in half during a blizzard in 1952 off Chatham, Cape Cod.
Javier Aguirresarobe's cinematography is spectacular. For the most part special effects go unnoticed. Director Craig Gillespie (Lars and the Real Girl) takes you out to sea during dangerous low tide as you find your emotions becoming a member of the crew of Coast Guard volunteers who dive in their tiny lifeboat into giant killer waves and come out the other side only to repeat this dive or to ride the wave as though you are surfing during a monstrous storm. I almost got sea sick. It was that intense.
The Finest Hours begins slowly and gently in the warmth of a cozy bar in New England. A shy, humble Chris Pines stars as Petty Officer First Class Bernie Webber, a member of the Coast Guard, who is on a blind date with Holiday Grainger who plays Miriam who is after your feminist heart. Both of these fine actors take their moments. Their blossoming love brings you into the impending drama and doom without your feeling manipulated. Miriam asks Bernie to marry her. When he agrees, she asks, "When?" No down time for Miriam who stands by her man.
She works at a switchboard, but escapes her work when she fears Bernie may have been ordered to sea by his Warrant Officer Daniel Cluff ( Eric Bana) to search for the missing oil tanker during one of the worst storms in New England's history. Officer Cluff is from South Carolina, but unfortunately Bana's accent goes in and out of a southern drawl as he is Australian. Also unfortunate is the lack of clarity as to why Bernie feels so insecure. Brief mention is made to Bernie's ineffectual actions at sea that caused a man's death. Hence Bernie is plagued with apprehension as a member of the Coast Guard. Also Officer Cluff does not give him support, but, indeed, orders him to head the search at sea of the missing crew of the SS Pendleton which means crossing the Chatham Bar in low tide, one of the most dangerous spots on the Atlantic Ocean due to shifting sandbars and massive waves. Bernie chooses volunteer seamen Richard Livesay (Ben Foster), Ervin Maske (John Magaro), engineman Andrew Fitzgerald (Kyle Gallner) to risk their lives going to sea to search for the missing sailors. "In the Coast Guard they say you have to go out...they don't say you have to come back in, " Bernie Webber has said.
And also unfortunate is that in a blizzard no snow ever falls on Miriam's well-coiffed hairstyle, its curls in perfect Disney lockstep and straight out of a fifties issue of Hairdo.
But most unfortunate is the small lifeboat that sales into the monstrous waves with our four heroes which seems smaller as it goes to sea and once it discovers the lost oil tanker suddenly can hold the 32 men it rescues plus the four on board. All in all 36 men return on the tiny battered lifeboat. Ok, folks! This is Disney! But the real 12 seat lifeboat is on display in a museum in Orleans, Massachusetts.
The crew of the torn in half oil tanker is led by Chief Engineer Ray Sybert (Casey Affleck) whose low key performance increases the terror and angst surrounding his crew.
Scott Silver, Paul Tamasy and Eric Johnson have written the screenplay for The Finest Hours which is successful in weaving the caring of the townsfolk via clever editing and story telling among the lives of the coast guard rescuers. Seamen Livesay, Maske, Fitzgerald and Webber were honored as heroes by the Coast Guard.
The Finest Hours is worthy of your respect and your price of admission. Enjoy what could have been more of a disaster, but thanks to Disney has been converted into top notch entertainment, a profound experience.