The Finest Hours: An epic sail through the rocky storm
The Finest Hours is an American movie based on historic events. It involves an epic disaster which, for the most part, is based on a screenplay inspired by the book The Finest Hours: The True Story of the U.S. Coast Guard’s Most Daring Sea Rescue written by Michael Tougias and Casey Sherman. With Craig Gillespie at the helm as the director, The Finest Hours exhibits an action-packed rescue narrative along with deeply character-driven drama cum survival story of men at sea and their subsequent rescue. It is a true story of an audacious and courageous United States Coast Guard (USCG) mounted rescue mission.
The movie starts off in the cold winters of 1952. Due to a vicious storm – a Nor’easter to be precise – the oil tanker, SS Pendleton gets split in half, killing almost everyone in the tragic calamity that befalls the crew. Only 30 men manage to survive the storm. This film is the story of these men and about their resilient rescuers who, in the face of insurmountable odds, do not abandon hope or their mission to rescue the remainder of SS Pendleton’s crew.
The ill-equipped rescue party of the USCG lifeboat CG 36500 along with its squad consists of Coast Guard Officer, Bernie Webber (Chris Pine) and three supporting crewmembers: Richard Livesay (Ben Foster), Andy Fitzgerald (Kyle Gallner), and Ervin Maske (John Magaro). Together, they face a ferocious and unruly storm coupled with the unpredictability of the deep waters, and withstand hostile winds during the rescue mission.
Speaking of the ensemble cast, they, in total, deliver a strong and impressive performance that resonates well with the overall premise of the movie. On top of that, each character is carefully balanced; no one is over or under-casted. Chris Pine exudes a stoic disposition which one can say was the requirement of his role. In between leading a rescue mission and directing the crewmembers on how to avoid a shipwreck, it leaves limited time space to excel in acting department. However, the movie’s opening scenes of Bernie with his fiancé (Holliday Grainger) provide a much needed breather in an otherwise tense and thrilling saga.
Casey Affleck who plays Ray Sybert is another actor who garners a mention due to his portrayal of an antisocial man who ultimately steps up and gives the rest of his crewmembers hope and optimism under such defying and grim odds. Other cast members include actors such as Eric Bana, Graham MacTavish, John Ortiz, Abraham Benrubi to name a few but there simply isn’t room for them to have that kind of depth and dimension in terms of acting as the story doesn’t permit them to stretch their acting muscles as much.
Most, if not all, of the movie is set in the night during a winter storm. From a technical standpoint, the visual effects and Computer Generated Imagery (CGI), though impactful, do not go overboard and become excessive. They levitate the overall atmosphere that the director intended, which is exhibiting men fighting with forces of nature in an almost pitch dark environment withstanding crushing waves as high as 60-feet. It feels authentic, perhaps the movie’s most impactful and impressive sequence is how Bernie’s rescue boat navigates the perilous Chatham’s sand bar, a natural shallow strip infamous for running ships aground.
To summarise, The Finest Hours is a worthy addition in sea-based movies, though it doesn’t necessarily have the visual or acting prowess of a movie like The Perfect Storm (2000) nor the big budget of the recently released In the Heart of the Sea (2015).
The strong albeit understated performances of actors and realistic visual effects compliment the story rather than just convoluting it due to overly complex visuals that can become difficult to be processed by the audience’s brains. Case in point: Transformers movies.
The Finest Hours is an entertaining movie to watch on your weekend. It will surely leave you in awe and humble you in the context of how terrifying the sea can really be at its worst.
I would give The Finest Hours 7.5 out of 10.