The Finest Hours review
Like a lot of people, I’m terrified of the idea of having to swim in the dark. It doesn’t matter where the water source is (the ocean, a swamp or even a regular swimming pool), but if I can’t see what’s beneath me, then who knows what could be down there. In a way looking at dark water is like looking deep into space with the both environments being unknown, mysterious and could turn on you in a heartbeat. If there’s nothing in the water, then I still hate thinking that if was in the middle of the ocean in the middle of the night. If I can’t see my own toes, then there’s something unsettling about that.
Luckily, the job of jumping into that dark water rests upon the coast guard who are the first responders to any sea emergency. It was only before I stepped in to see The Finest Hours that I realized that very few movies that are about the Coast Guard. It’s fair to say that other military branches tend to get more attention then the sea bound team. The Finest Hours chronicles one of their most dangerous rescue attempts that will make you glad to be wrapped in blanket on those cold nights.
It is 1952 where Coast Guard crewman Bernie Webber (played by Chris Pine) makes a life for himself in Chatham, Massachusetts where he meets and falls in love with a young woman, Miriam Pentinen (played by Holiday Grainger). They set April 16 as the wedding date while winter is still upon the Cape Cod town, covering the city in a nearly whiteout storm. Bernie asks for permission for marriage from his commanding officer, Daniel Cluff (played by Eric Bana), but is insulted for having to ask to be married. It is then Bernie sees that the rest of the Coast Guard crewmen see him as a guy who only follows orders.
Meanwhile, an oil tanker, the SS Pendleton breaks in half during a storm while out on the ocean. The surviving crew, which consists of engineers, cooks, and the lone sailor, Ray Sybert (played by Casey Affleck), see that their not too far from land, but still need rescue.
Bernie gets called to go rescue the survivors with only a few crewmen on a lifeboat, even though the nor’easter is still fiercely rough. Despite having a small boat, his compass gone and cold weather beating him up, he still attempts one of the craziest rescues in military history.
The Finest Hours has plenty of material to make a great story from a likable real life solider to a stormy sea that even Moby Dick would have found too rough. It’s a shame that the final product was simply too forgettable and surprisingly dull. It seems that the tone of the story was to make this more of a typical day then a major rescue (at least until towards the end). I can understand doing that to make the Coast Guard characters more relatable, but it can backfire, and it does here. If these people don’t see this as something major, then why should it’s audience?
The best thing about the movie are the two stars, Chris Pine and Casey Affleck who are both playing different kinds of leaders. They do their parts well enough, but it’s the rest of the characters that have little identity aside from their jobs. I know I should be worried about those on the oil tanker, but the movie needed more time for us to get to know these people better. Instead, the narrative only seems to be to do it’s sea job, go to the next and do the next job.
I’ll give this three Coast Guard boats out of five. The old fashioned story of the coast guard has it’s moments in the second half, but are not enough the fixed the deluded tone that the first half is seemingly stuck with. The Finest Hours might make for an okay history lesson, but not a satisfying action movie nor a romance.