“The Finest Hours,” the new Disney adventure film based on real events chronicled in the non-fiction book of the same name, may have to overcome an identity crisis. As you probably know, some movies market themselves better than others. Sometimes it’s the title that keeps people from coming to the multiplex (“Dying Young” anyone?) while other times they become guilty by association. The trailers for The Finest Hours are somewhat similar to “The Perfect Storm” from 2000. The two stories aren’t remotely the same except that they are based on true stories and they both take place in the stormy waters of the sea. But while “Storm” ends pretty tragically, this one has a reason to celebrate at the end. I could say that it is a Disney film that could be proof enough for some, but this is the same studio that killed off “Old Yeller” too. No, this film has an upbeat ending because the true story that it is based on, does as well. But is sure didn’t start out that way.
On February 18, 1952, a bizarre snow stop or nor-easter, hit the New England area including the Eastern Seaboard. Right in its path were two 500-foot oil tankers: The SS Pendleton and the SS Fort Mercer. The storm him them that both of them were broke open, cut in half. Warrant Officer Daniel Cluff (Eric Bana) immediately sends out a crew to rescue those on the Mercer as it was hit first. About two hours later he gets word that the same thing happened to Pendleton.
“The Finest Hours” chooses to tell the story of what happened with the rescue of those on Pendleton. The film is sort of two stories in one that focuses on a number of brave men, however, the standouts are Raymond Sybert (Casey Affleck), the chief engineer who didn’t lose his cool and commands the attention of his crew in order to keep them safe. The other, of course, is Bernie Webber (Chris Pine) who takes three men and a small boat to rescue 32 men. Sort of a David and Goliath thing with Webber as David and the storm as the giant. Meanwhile, back on the shore is Miriam (Holliday Grainger), Webber’s fiancée who doesn’t have much to do during her screen than to look worried or pout.
The entire rescue is amazing to watch. Overall, this is one good-looking film. It is being presented in theaters with three different types of 3D which really works. There is a lot of snow falling in this film which appears to come off the screen. Many of the scenes were actually filmed inside a large soundstage with impressively manufactured big waves.
Pine is especially good as Webber who isn’t at all like Captain Kirk from “Star Trek” or any other recently played character. Webber is sort of “Aw, shucks” kind of guys who always, always plays by the rules. They don’t get much more straight-laced than this. His character even doubts his looks early on when meeting a blind date for the first time, but his buddy quickly assures him that that was never his problem. (I thought it was nice that Disney got that fact out of the way early on so that we could concentrate on his actual acting.)
Really, the only weak link to the story is the aforementioned role of Miriam. Grainger plays the character just fine, but it isn’t clear while she was given so much screen time. Her character, who is supposed to be sweet, is also a bit off-putting. While other people are pulling together to comfort one another, she stands alone. Her character also comes across as strong-willed and tough for no apparent reason. Perhaps the real Miriam in real life was just like that, but it doesn’t seem to work here. Teamwork is a big theme with this movie, so making her so isolated seems like an odd choice.
Director Craig Gillespie chose to make “The Finest Hours” in such a way that there is no heavy drinking, little violence and very mild language so it is appropriate for most families. It is PG-13, but a really tame PG-13. By the end, you’ll know why the event is known by many as the greatest small boat rescue in the Coast Guard’s history.