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The Finest Hours Review: A Thrilling & Epic Tale of Heroism

By Julian Roman — January 28th, 2016

The Finest Hours is a rousing, old-fashioned tale of remarkable heroism and grit. A massive winter storm capsized the oil tanker SS Pendleton off the coast of Chatham, Massachusetts on February 18, 1952. Unfortunately for them, another ship, the SS Fort Mercer had the same problem hours before. The Coast Guard sent a fleet of boats to the Fort Mercer, and then were caught completely off guard by the Pendleton disaster. Defying all conceivable odds, a crew of guardsmen led by Bernie Webber (Chris Pine), ventured into the storm and saved thirty-two men from the Pendleton. Based on the novel by Michael J. Tougias and Casey Sherman, The Finest Hours is the incredible true story of the greatest small craft rescue in U.S. Coast Guard history.

We're introduced to Bernie Webber (Chris Pine) on his first date with Miriam (Holliday Grainger). As the couple's courtship intensifies, Webber struggles with the idea of marriage; knowing that tragedy is possible every time he goes out to sea. When the storm splits the Pendleton, the crew descends into a chaotic fight for survival. The ship's engineer, Ray Sybert (Casey Affleck), takes control of the men and concocts a daring plan to buy them as much time as possible for a rescue. The film parallels three plot lines, Sybert working to keep the Pendleton afloat, Webber battling the open sea, and Miriam at the Coast Guard station; begging an obstinate commander (Eric Bana) to order her beloved home.

The Finest Hours plays out like a fifties period piece, something you would see in the heyday of matinee Hollywood; albeit with mind-blowing special effects. You have the gallant heroes, the sweetheart waiting on baited breath, and the seemingly insurmountable storm standing in their way. There's nothing vulgar or obscene about this story. Chris Pine and Casey Affleck are fantastic as the glue holding their men together. They play their characters without bravado. You feel that these were ordinary guys. The Finest Hours is about real people in a dangerous situation, doing their best to survive. It's classic cinema.

Director Craig Gillespie and his production team nail the ferocity of the storm. The rescue boat guns through towering waves while being pummeled by wind and rain. The Pendleton crew working feverishly to seal cracks as the storm tosses them like rag dolls. The special effects are simply astonishing. Then you have the town of Chatham, the costume design of the characters, it's a completely immersive experience. I saw this film in IMAX 3D and highly recommend it.

Disney invited Movieweb on a set visit to The Finest Hours during its production. It was incredible to behold, big-budget filmmaking on every level. However, in my career visiting movie sets, there have been many times when something awesome witnessed did not translate to the finished product on screen. Not this time. The Finest Hours surpassed what I expected to see. It is a great film and a worthy testament to the brave men of the U.S. Coast Guard. If you are still on the fence about seeing the movie, you can also check out the new featurette for the heroic action-thriller, which pays tribute to the brave men and women of the U.S. Coast Guard, as well as new clips from the film.

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