Walt Disney Pictures’ latest is ‘The Finest Hours,’ an ambiguously titled film that tells the ‘based-on-a-true-story’ version of the U.S. Coast Guard’s most courageous rescue off the New England coast in 1952.
Chris Pine (‘Star Trek’) plays the heavily New England-accented Bernie Webber, a kind, but shy and rule-bound, Coast Guard coxswain’s mate, who has a sad past involving a failed at-sea rescue. We meet young Bernie as he first meets his girlfriend-to-be, Miriam (Holliday Grainger), a forthright and self-confident young woman, who seems to know right away that reluctant Bernie is the guy for her.
Unfortunately, the young couple seems somewhat star-crossed, as Bernie and his small crew are soon sent by their commanding officer (Eric Bana) into a dark and turbulent winter ocean storm, whose ferocity and seven-story waves have torn two tankers apart, to attempt a near-impossible rescue. Meanwhile, on board the doomed tanker, genius engineer Ray Sybert (Casey Affleck) seeks to lead the desperate surviving crewmembers by MacGyvering the boat’s steering and attempting to avoid the boat’s engine being flooded, but time is running out for the at-sea survivors.
Although bolstered by some fine CGI effects, ‘The Finest Hours’ feels old-fashioned. Bernie and Miriam, the supposed heart of the film, are presented in very one-dimensional ways, and the audience is never fully privy to what makes either of the two leads really tick. What is made abundantly clear, however, is that Bernie (and Miriam, by default) are good people from ‘The Greatest Generation.’ That is to say, they seemingly self-sacrifice for others and stay true to the highest personal ideals. ‘The Finest Hours’ is not steeped in the common modern theme of independently bucking the corrupt system. Instead, the retro-themed film asks the audience to accept that the protagonists are collectively propelled by a stringent sense of morality and commitment to the common good.
Unfortunately, the real-life story of the against-all-odds rescue mounted by this four Coast Guard crew is infinitely more engaging than what is brought fully to the screen. (In fact, stay during the credits to see amazing real-life photos of those involved in the 1952 rescue). But, what makes the film more than a brush-off is its attempt to resurrect an all-ages, action-rescue film that celebrates the importance of commitment and self-sacrifice.
‘The Finest Hours’ is rated 3+ of 5 stars.