Based on a real life incident, The Finest Hour follows the story of the crew of SS Pendleton, an oil tanker which had broken into two in a storm off the coast of Massachusetts, and the rescue efforts of coastguard officer Bernard “Bernie” C. Webber and three crew members. This rescue mission is termed as US Coast Guard's most daring rescue in a small boat. The movie is based on the book The Finest Hours: The True Story of the U.S. Coast Guard's Most Daring Sea Rescue.
The story in itself is incredible and inspiring. Made to the book, the movie successfully transports you to February 18, 1952 when the said incident took place. The atmosphere and feel are typical of movies of that time. The story, told in a straightforward manner, is engrossing.
Though a disaster flick, it is left wanting in the adventure department. Those who love the catastrophe movies that Hollywood has produced in the past might feel incomplete after watching The Finest Hour. This is probably a drawback of making a movie based on real life incidents.
Craig Gillespie seems crippled when it comes to injecting drama into the script. But he has tried to make up for it as the movie opens. Initial scenes delve into past events. Bernie's back story is revealed. There was a failed rescue attempt and some unhappy residents. This background adds depth to Chris Pine's character as Bernie. But the romance between Chris Pine and Holliday Gringer felt misplaced. But it is part of the story and cannot be avoided.
The pace, though slow in the beginning, picks up later when the actual events start. When the ship splits into two, the crew onboard SS Pendleton's intact-half realise that they have just few hours left. The scramble to survive the sea and the storm manages to heighten the tension. Bernie's rescue boat as it goes “over the bar” are worth looking forward to. There are some excellent shots of the boat as it is fully submerged by waves.
There is some good camera work but it does not seem to last through the movie. Another fact is the lack of adrenaline pumping action sequences. Everything felt mellow and subdued. Even the climactic rescue scene felt unadventurous.
Pine, looking old, is in character. Gentlemanly, dedicated, shy but brave Bernie is the only character you wish to see again.
Grainger as Miriam Pentinen Webber, the girlfriend with very red lips, runs around the town looking concerned about her boyfriend. But she could have easily been left out. Her presence only contributes to the otherwise non-existent tension as there is a marriage in the offing.
Casey Affleck plays well the silent and logical Ray Sybert who is “married to the ship”. He is the only one able to take any decision in the chaotic situation and saves his crew from death. Hope to see Affleck in more such promising roles.
Traditional and old-fashioned describe the movie best. There are things lacking and it fails to be the finest two hours of Hollywood film making. But it is a story of survival and determination and that is the only reason you want to watch it, just once.
**Film: The Finest Hours
Rating: 3 stars
Director: Craig Gillespie
Stars: Chris Pine, Casey Affleck, Holliday Gringer**