The Finest Hours Review

The Finest Hours

Real-life-inspired seafaring yarns. You wait ages for one and two come along at once.

Much the same could be said for distressed oil tankers, but more on that later.

December gave us the Moby-Dick-inspired In the Heart of the Sea, and now comes another Massachusetts-spawned sea tale, The Finest Hours.

No, not the Winston Churchill movie.

This film tells the story of the legendary 1952 rescue mounted by a small US Coast Guard boat to save the survivors of the SS Pendleton, an oil tanker which was ripped in half by a treacherous storm.

In the meantime, the majority of the coast guard’s resources was preoccupied by the rescue of the SS Fort Mercer, another oil tanker which had run into trouble nearby.

Chis Pine takes the quasi-lead role as Bernie Webber, one of the four men who led the rescue.

Bernie is portrayed as being young, earnest and quietly capable but needing to prove himself amongst his peers.

In parallel, we see the story from the survivors’ perspective and their separate battle to ensure that they stay afloat long enough to be rescued. Leading the group is Ray Sybert (Casey Affleck) who knows the ship inside out but faces his own battles in making sure his voice is heard amongst his crewmates.

In contrast to Bernie, Sybert is portrayed as being young, earnest and quietly capable but needing to prove himself amongst his peers.

Ok, so they are basically the same character.

There is additional emotional heft given to the tale by the presence of Bernie’s bride-to-be, Miriam Pentinen, waiting anxiously by the shoreside.

It all sounds a bit schmaltzy right from the film’s title (same as the book on which it was based, to be fair) and the opening scenes when Bernie and Miriam first meet, but the performances by Pine and particularly Affleck compensate.

The special effects are also impressive: the sequence in which the small lifeboat attempts to traverse the Bar, a perilous nearby shoal, is particularly gripping.

Eric Bana and Ben Foster also appear but are largely underused, with Bana’s Daniel Cluff not getting a mention for making the right call even if it was for the wrong reasons.

Holliday Grainger does her best with Miriam, a character who may have been intended as sassy but comes across more bridezilla. There’s an unintentionally comedic moment when Bernie has a choice between answering a call from his missus-to-be or going to his certain doom. He chooses the latter.

This is admittedly an odd play from Craig Gillespie, the director of such quirky fare as Lars and the Real Girl. Regardless, Gillespie mines great drama from both the physical travails of the characters as well as the internal politics of both the Pendleton and the US Coast Guard.

There’s nothing groundbreaking here, but it is a solid, well-made movie.

Apart from perhaps a slightly damp finish, pun intended.

Conor Brennan

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Dates ‘n stuff

February 2016