Do you like adventures about the high seas? Did you ever wonder what’s it like to be caught at sea during a storm? Put on your lifejacket and find out my thoughts on Disney’s The Finest Hours.
I’m a sucker for true stories and especially if they are about regular people going above and beyond their capabilities. The Finest Hours, which is produced by Walt Disney Pictures, is a historical disaster drama directed by Craig Gillespie. I became a fan of Gillespie after watching Lars and the Real Girl. If you haven’t seen this little gem; do so. The film is based on the book, The Finest Hours: The True Story of the U.S. Coast Guard’s Most Daring Sea Rescue by Michael J. Tougias and Casey Sherman. The film stars Chris Pine, Casey Affleck, Ben Foster, Holliday Granger, John Ortiz and Eric Bana.
This story is about doing the right thing even when it’s not expected of you. Chris Pine plays the part of Bernie Webber, a crewman at the Chatham Massachusetts Coast Guard station. Bernie is a shy guy who does everything by the books. Bernie is so shy that he is often teased by his fellow crew members. Bernie carries a lot of guilt on his shoulders because he was unable to save the crew of a fishing boat the year before. It was an impossible task. How can mere mortals compete against a powerful sea, but never the less, Bernie bears the guilt even if it is self-imposed.
This is also a love story that asks the question; can young love survive in the face of disaster and even death? Bernie is such an introvert that his buddy has to set him up on a blind date. When Bernie meets Miriam (Holliday Grainger) it is love at first sight.
Everything is going smoothly for our two lovers, except for two little detours: ‘by the book’ Bernie feels obligated to get permission to get married from his Chief Warrant Officer, Daniel Cluff (Eric Bana) even though this is not necessary and, a freaking nor’easter is stirring up havoc on the high seas.
The story, which takes place in 1952, is reflected in the clothing, vehicles and attitudes of that period in history, but there is nothing old fashioned about Miriam. Holliday Granger plays her character as more of a modern girl in that she not only asks Bernie to marry her, but she is not afraid to confront Cluff and order him to cancel the rescue mission
While Bernie works up his nerve to talk to Commander Cluff, an oil tanker sends out a yell for help. The tanker was hit so hard by the waves that it was literally torn in half. Commander Cluff sends a team to rescue the survivors from that disaster, but nature isn’t done flexing its muscles.
Soon, a second call comes in from another ship, the SS Pendleton… or should I say what remains of the Pendleton. A quiet ship’s engineer, Ray Sybert (Casey Affleck) is left with the task of keeping the remaining half of the oil tanker afloat over the disapproval of several crewmates.
Did you know that the Coast Guard was created by Congress in 1790 by Alexander Hamilton and is the oldest continuous seagoing service of the United States? Most people don’t and, I’m guessing most landlubbers don’t realize that the sea demands respect from those who dare to make a living from it, be they military or civilians. The Finest Hours is definitely a great action film and there is enough tension to keep you on the edge of your seat, but it is also a character study of a hero in the making.
Bernie Webber followed the rules and did what he was told to do by his commanding officer. Webber was a good man, a quiet man and someone you’d call an ordinary man, but he knew the sea and he took a risk. Ray Sybert, like Webber, was also a quiet unassuming man who was thrust into the role of leader upon the loss of the tanker’s captain. Together, these two men went against their nature and stood their ground against their fellow crew members and, against Mother Nature herself.
If you like your heroes to be everyday people like yourselves, who step up to the plate and go against the odds, then you will enjoy this film.