Synopsis: The Coast Guard makes a daring rescue attempt off the coast of Cape Cod after a pair of oil tankers are destroyed during a blizzard in 1952.
Release Date: January 29, 2016 MPAA Rating: PG-13
Genre(s): Action, Drama
In the winter of 1952, the oil tanker SS Fort Mercer split in two off the coast of the Northern US, prompting a massive rescue effort that required almost all that the Coast Guard had to offer at the time. However, unbeknownst to most, a second oil tanker, the SS Pendleton, had also split in two, leaving 34 crewman stranded with little hope of survival, save for a small Coast Guard contingent from Massachusetts. The Finest Hours tells of the crew and their incredible rescue mission.
Considering The Finest Hours‘ marketing touts the film as an “incredible true story,” it’s hard to go in expecting major dramatic stakes. Any quick look at Wikipedia will tell you that the Pendleton crew and the Coast Guard rescue outfit, led by Bernard “Bernie” Webber (Chris Pine from Star Trek), defied the odds at every turn. Where adversity struck, ingenuity and a fair bit of luck struck right back. And when things seemed impossible, serendipity stepped in to steady the boat, so to speak.
That’s all to say that The Finest Hours isn’t going to surprise its audience. Rather, the film chooses to follow a predictable formula of one-part rescue crew’s perspective, one-part Pendleton crew’s perspective, and one-part Chris Pine’s love interest’s perspective. Knowing that, most can figure out how things will work out, and they won’t be proven wrong. This is a Disney movie after all.
What’s most disappointing about The Finest Hours, though, is its inability to properly set the stakes or create any real sense of drama. Yes, it’s very clear that both Webber’s crew and those on the Pendleton, led by reluctant engineer Ray Sybert (Out of the Furnace‘s Casey Affleck), are clearly in danger, but it never really feels like they are. Moreover, the rescue mission comes across as motivated by some altruistic sense of defying the odds, not saving the lives of several dozen innocent crewmen. At every turn, the locals of Massachusetts tell Webber that what he and his ragtag crew are doing is a suicide mission, and that they should simply not go. Webber does go out, though, but seemingly to prove the naysayers wrong and because it’s his duty, not necessarily because if he doesn’t people will die. It’s an odd oversight in a film about a daring rescue mission.
Equally odd is the choice to show the perspective of Webber’s fiancée, Miriam (Holliday Grainger from Cinderella), throughout the film. Her character serves almost no purpose to the story at hand, and feels like a focus group decision more than anything else. It’s a love story added simply because this type of movie has a love story, and because Webber did have a fiancée at the time. How much of her part of the story is true, however, is very unclear.
In the end, The Finest Hours does offer a heroic story, but its told in a very unremarkable way. What the Fort Mercer crew and Bernie Webber’s Coast Guard outfit survived is truly incredible; it’s just too bad that the film doesn’t do a great job of framing it. Those looking to get a simple dose of history may come away from the film feeling slightly satisfied, but you’re honestly better off just reading about the rescue mission. It feels harsh to call a film like this boring, but there’s no other way to describe it.
Like the movie itself, the cast in The Finest Hours is fine, serving its purpose in a story that should feel worth telling. However, most of the major players, i.e. Chris Pine, Casey Affleck, and Holliday Grainger, feel disinterested in giving life to their respective roles. For Pine and Affleck’s characters specifically, you don’t get a sense of who these men really are and why they felt driven to action.
To be fair, no one is “bad” in the film – they simply don’t stand out. And in a situation that should be overwrought with heroic characters and great drama, The Finest Hours‘ cast doesn’t get the job done. You’ll like the characters just fine, but you won’t feel any noticeable draw to care about them.
Cast and Crew
- Director(s): Craig Gillespie
- Producer(s): Dorothy AufieroJames Whitaker
- Screenwriter(s): Scott SilverPaul TamasyEric Johnson
- Story: Casey Sherman & Michael J. Tougias
- Cast: Chris Pine (Bernie Webber)Casey Affleck (Ray Sybert)Ben Foster (Richard Livesey) Kyle Gallner (Andy Fitzgerald)Eric Bana (Daniel Cluff)Holliday Grainger (Miriam)Rachel Brosnahan (Bea Hansen)Graham McTavish (Frank Fauteux)John Magaro (Ervin Maske)Abraham Benrubi (Tiny Myers)Josh Stewart (Tchuda Southerland)Keiynan Lonsdale (Eldon Hanan)
- Editor(s): Tatiana S. Riegel
- Cinematographer: Javier Aquirresarobe
- Production Designer(s):
- Costume Designer: Louise Frogley
- Casting Director(s): Mindy Marin
- Music Score: Carter Burwell
- Music Performed By:
- Country Of Origin: USA