If Disney’s new action adventure film The Finest Hours reminds you of a certain George Clooney movie from about 15 years ago called The Perfect Storm, you wouldn’t be wrong. There are similarities as both are Massachusettes-set movies following a group of ordinary men in survival mode on the high seas as a huge Nor’easter hits. But apart from the spectacular effects of lots of giant crashing waves on a comparatively tiny boat, The Finest Hours has more on its mind as it tells the true and heroic story of one of the most incredible Coast Guard rescues in history.
Set in 1952, a four-man Coast Guard crew faces the wrath of the unforgiving ocean off Chatham, MA to head out against all odds and try to rescue the crew of a downed oil tanker that has split in half due to the horrendous pounding of the weather. Chris Pine as Bernie Webber leads the mission with three others on board his 36-foot boat to rescue the remaining crew of many (over 30) stranded men, led by the tanker’s engineer nicely played by Casey Affleck. The film switches back and forth between these two competing scenarios with a personal backstory also set in motion for Webber, who has just become engaged to a telephone switchboard operator (Holliday Grainger). She realizes her beau is being sent out on a suicide mission by the local commander (Eric Bana) and desperately tries to get the boss to abort the mission before it’s too late.
Webber’s boat mates have their own particular human traits including a nice turn from Ben Foster, but ultimately the film focuses on man vs elements in a thrilling bid for survival. Although patriotic by its very nature, the movie does not dwell on flag-waving elements but tells an extraordinary tale of ordinary men doing their job in dire circumstances. Pine is perfectly cast as the real-life Webber, ,who is as likeable as he is dedicated to duty beyond the call. Foster, John Magara and Kyle Gallner all make up a believable, if in-over-their-heads boat crew for Pine to navigate.
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Director Craig Gillespie steers the ship in ways that never let the action overtake the human element, but have no worry — this film is loaded with almost nonstop excitement as the clock and the weather collide to make a successful rescue seemingly impossible. The score by Carter Burwell perfectly complements the visuals, and the CGI effects — which took more than a year in post-production — are more than worth the effort and money. It’s all on the screen. The Fighter’s scripting team of Scott Silver, Paul Tamsay and Eric Johnson adapting Casey Sherman’s book nicely avoid the cliches of this kind of flick and stick to business, avoiding the traps that sunk Ron Howard’s recent ocean tale In The Heart Of The Sea. Hopefully this one won’t suffer a similar fate. Producers are Jim Whitaker and Dorothy Aufiero.
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