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article imageReview: ‘The Finest Hours’ is a tale of bravery in many circumstances Special

By Sarah Gopaul     Jan 30, 2016 in Entertainment
‘The Finest Hours’ effectively chronicles a harrowing rescue in a deadly storm, though its dangers must compete with the hindrances of 3D technology.
It’s fair to say even the dangerous jobs were more hazardous 50 years ago. New safety measures and equipment improvements have decreased the mortality rates of most risky positions. But in some cases there are just certain threats and vulnerabilities that can’t be extinguished with Mother Nature topping the list of unmanageables. Whether those employed in these industries do it for the money, sense of duty or lack of other opportunities, the risk is the same. In The Finest Hours, a U.S. Coast Guard team heads out into a horrendous storm to rescue the crew of a sinking oil tanker.
On February 18, 1952, a year after a local fishing boat was lost in a terrible storm, another equally powerful nor’easter batters the coastline making it nearly impossible for small rescue boats to make it over the 60-foot waves and get out to sea. The local U.S. Coast Guard station in Chatham, Massachusetts hopes to hunker down and wait out the hurricane-force winds, but an almost unheard distress signal forces them into action. The S.S. Pendleton, a T-2 oil tanker bound for Boston, has been literally ripped in half, trapping more than 30 men in the barely floating wreckage. While first assistant engineer Ray Sybert (Casey Affleck) tries to convince the remainder of the crew to work together until help arrives, Coast Guard Captain Bernie Webber (Chris Pine) assembles a team of three other men to brave the weather and try to save them. Both without navigation instruments or reliable radio service, the impromptu leaders follow their instincts and hope for the best.
Based on a true story, the film chronicles the greatest small boat rescue in Coast Guard history as they save more than 30 men in a wooden lifeboat made for 12. It begins months before the incident, following Bernie as he meets and falls in love with his would-be wife, Miriam (Holliday Grainger). She provides the third narrative perspective of the concerned families hopelessly awaiting news. Unlike “the other wives,” she confronts Bernie’s superior for endangering his young crew’s life after making an irregular appearance at the Coast Guard station. While the life-threatening events of the other narratives are captivating, Miriam lends some energy to the overall picture.
A scene from  The Finest Hours
A scene from 'The Finest Hours'
Disney Studios
There is a fair amount of build-up to the rescue, attempting to establish the mindsets of the men involved as well as recount the chain of events that led to its success. Sybert isn’t well liked by the rest of the crew, so they are reluctant to follow his recommendations even though he is likely the only with the knowledge to make such decisions. Bernie is torn between his commitment to the Guard and his desire to marry Miriam, knowing that the former will always have to come first. Once Bernie launches, the film maintains a frantic atmosphere. Both men hold the lives of their trusting subordinates in their hands as they each try to do the impossible – make it over the bar and out of the harbour, and steer half a ship to brief and relative safety.
The film expertly recreates these events so the audience becomes equally consumed with the precariousness of their situations. However this experience is hindered by the poor incorporation of 3D. The technology inevitably makes the picture darker, dimming the scenes meant to be a contrast to the perils of the storm. More importantly it unnecessarily obscures the details of most other scenes, making it difficult to really appreciate the work of reconstructing this daring rescue. For the supposed benefit of a little depth, this movie would have been better served if it was only available in standard.
Fortunately the actors are adequate in their portrayals and keep the audience engaged in the picture in spite of the viewing quality (and in some cases, the quality of their accents). Although Pine and Affleck are the main characters, this is truly an ensemble picture with many of the supporting cast that comprises their crews making an impression as well. A ragtag group of familiar faces, they do their part in bringing this story to life.
Director: Craig Gillespie
Starring: Chris Pine, Casey Affleck and Holliday Grainger
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