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Three Views: The Finest Hours

January 29, 2016

The Finest Hours Review By John Corrado

★★½ (out of 4)

The Finest Hours PosterStaged as a good old fashioned disaster drama, The Finest Hours recounts the true story of the courageous Coast Guard rescue of over thirty men aboard a doomed vessel in February of 1952.  This is a solid effort from Disney that is better than the January release date might suggest, even if it doesn’t leave quite enough of an impact compared to the rest of the studio’s blockbuster slate.

The film starts as a mildly charming 1950s love story between Bernie Webber (Chris Pine), a stoic member of the Coast Guard, and Miriam (Holliday Grainger), who isn’t quite prepared to accept his life commitment to his work, and just wants him to take enough time off for them to get married.

When a terrifying blizzard strikes off the snowy coast of Cape Cod in Massachuessets, an oil tanker is literally ripped in half by the high winds and raging waters, leaving young engineer Ray Sybert (Casey Affleck) struggling to keep his boat afloat and prevent the crew from losing hope.  When Commander Daniel Cluff (Eric Bana) picks up their signal, Bernie is among the team of four who are sent out on a tiny life boat to rescue them, braving the elements and risking their lives in order to save others.

Director Craig Gillespie shows a deft hand behind the camera, staging some impressively sized and fittingly atmospheric set-pieces that generate suspense aboard the sinking ship and atop the terrifying waves.  Although the film sometimes feels a touch corny, and takes a little while to get going, The Finest Hours is elevated by an optimistic and well meaning spirit, that harkens back to an older time.  The film’s biggest problem actually turns out to be its most modern element, which is the needless 3D presentation, a conversion job that often adds little depth and a distracting layer of murkiness.

When all is said and done, The Finest Hours is a competently made, well acted and sometimes stirring high seas adventure, that captures the charming innocence of its 1950s setting and the inspiring triumph of human spirit that these true events represent.  The film feels old fashioned, and sometimes there’s nothing wrong with that, boasting a sense of heroism that is well intentioned and hard to deny.

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Bernie Webber (Chris Pine) and Miriam (Holliday Grainger) in The Finest Hours

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The Finest Hours Review By Erin Corrado

★★★ (out of 4)

During a storm in February 1952, an oil tanker off the coast of Cape Cod split in two, the bow rapidly slipping into the depths and leaving the stern floating with hours before it too would sink beneath the darkened waves.  With a crew of just over 30 people left on board, all hope seemed lost.  When their distress signal went out to the Coast Guard, the state of the storm and waves made it likely impossible for them to get to rescue the crew on time or even to make it in one piece out of their own harbour.

The Finest Hours is based on this true story of the daring rescue of the crew of the Pendleton by the US Coast Guard.  The Coast Guard rescue vessel led by Bernie Webber (Chris Pine), was a small boat with a four person crew, only meant to hold 12-15 people max.  Going out into waves 10 times the size of their boat, the quiet Bernie leads his crew, determined to fulfill his mission as a member of the Coast Guard, and leave no man behind.  Back on the Pendleton, with their Captain gone, the soft-spoken Chief Engineer Ray Sybert (Casey Affleck) has to convince a crew who barely notices him, (let alone will listen), that his understanding of the ships inner workings might be the only chance for them to find a way to keep the ship afloat long enough for rescue.

An interesting thing I liked about the film was the focus and parallels between the two quiet leaders on each boat.  Both are thrust into this position of leading survival in impossible conditions, and neither of the men really take charge in the loud aggressive way often seen by the classic ‘hero’ on screen (nor are seen this way by their peers), but rather they each lead with a quiet determination, intelligence and moral code.

Once the film really gets going, we are taken deftly back and forth between the two boats and the shore as the story plays out in three places at once.  The starring scenes of the film are those on the boats, but that’s exactly what you’d hope for with a film telling this story.  The water sequences are very well shot and the filming puts us right in the elements – the only disappointment however, is that the 3D conversion dampens their effect, as it made the screen too dark.  Lifting the glasses up for a second proved this, as the nighttime shots looked way better colour-wise without the darkened effect the glasses created.  For that reason, I would suggest watching this one in 2D – there is still a lot of depth and scale to the cinematography, and the nature of the scenes will play out just as strongly.

I quite enjoyed the film.  It is a bit slow-paced near the beginning, and could possibly have been slightly shorter, but other than that, the performances are strong and likeable, and the editing well done.  As a solid late January release, I would recommend checking out The Finest Hours.

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Ray Sybert (Casey Affleck) and Tchuda Southerland (Josh Stewart) in The Finest Hours

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The Finest Hours Review By Tony Corrado

★★½ (out of 4)

The Finest Hours reenacts the rescue of 32 crewmembers from an oil tanker off the coast of Cape Cod MA during a winter storm in February 1952. The tanker had been split in two and the surviving crew in the aft section led by chief engineer Ray Sybert (Casey Affleck) did what they could to survive until help came. With a four man crew led by young Bernie Webber (Chris Pine), an 11 metre gasoline-powered wooden Coast Guard launch set out from Chatham MA on the outer banks of Cape Cod. Facing 130 km/h winds whipping up 20 m breaking waves over the shifting sandbar (“the bah”) just off the coast was believed to be impossible, but Webber was determined to do his duty.

Directed by Craig Gillespie for Disney, The Finest Hours does a fine job in the action scenes aboard the broken tanker and USCG boat. Careful attention was taken to use real locations and equipment from the period and the cast really had to endure long wet winter days. The generally gloomy and colourless look (perhaps partly due to the 3D glasses) was actually appropriate for the situation.

Meanwhile, the on-shore scenes about the courtship of Bernie and Miriam (Holliday Grainger) and tension with commanding officer from away Cluff (Eric Bana) were merely adequate, suffering from context that was not always clear to those unfamiliar with the area. Despite these limitations, the cast does what they can to pay homage to the greatest Coast Guard rescue in history, sticking reasonably close to the actual story.

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Consensus: Although the 3D effects sometimes make it too dark, and the film takes a little while to get going, The Finest Hours is a solidly staged disaster drama, that recounts an inspiring true story through impressive special effects and a good cast. ★★½ (out of 4)

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