The Finest Hours recounts the incredible true story of an oil tanker split apart by a storm and a crew awaiting rescue
Just when you think a situation can’t get any worse, the sea goes on ahead and rips your tanker in half. When the only option left to survive is to run your oil tanker aground, you know the situation has gone from bad to worse.
Directed by Craig Gillespie and starring Chris Pine, Casey Affleck and Holliday Grainger, the Disney-produced The Finest Hours is a retelling of the incredible true story of the 1952 Pendleton rescue mission attempt that happened off the coast of Cape Cod, when two oil tankers were split apart by a violent storm at sea, leaving their crews stranded on a ship doomed to sink.
The historical adventure drama tells the story from the point of view of Bernie Webber (Chris Pine) a shy, soft-spoken member of the Chatham, MA, coast guard. When word of the drifting tanker reaches him, Webber and three other coast guards set out to attempt a daring rescue mission in a 36-foot lifeboat. It’s a harrowing tale of survival and determination, as the 30-person crew on the SS Mercer try desperately to keep their broken tanker afloat long enough to be rescued. The only feasible option is aiming straight for a shoal in an attempt to run her aground, thus preventing her from sinking.
Facing over 90-kilometre-per-hour winds and approximately 20-metre-tall swells, Webber must both find the crew without a compass and navigate through powerful waves that toss his little lifeboat around like a toy in the frothing and foaming ocean.
Perhaps the most appealing aspect of the movie is the constant sense of impending doom, as the crew cringes following each attempt to ground or steer their tanker. The dread is palpable as they work together to cap a breach in the hull, thus delaying the inevitable loss of power, pumps, and gradual sinking to the seabed.
Webber is an interesting character: a no-nonsense, live-by-the-rules guy. He does as he is told and sets out in one of the most violent and severe storms ever, despite knowing the dangers and probability of being crushed to pieces in the sandbar, a treacherous area between the Cape where the boat is moored and the open water where he needs to get to. Eventually, his appreciation for the regulations loosens, following his gut rather than following the rules.
The Finest Hours is not your typical man versus nature action disaster movie. The film takes a long time to set up, spending equal amounts of time with the crew of the SS Mercer and engineer Ray Sybert (Casey Affleck), just barely managing to keep his ship afloat, and with Webber, navigating the rolling and frigid waves of a January storm. However, this slow setup makes for a worthwhile rescue, as the audience learns about the ship and understands all the ways in which the rescue could go wrong. The movie is fairly predictable but unlike many other action movies, this one actually seems to make sense. Although the events are dramatized for the sake of entertainment, they remain believable. This link to realism creates a true appreciation for the actions of the characters and allows the audience to connect with the unlikely hero in the quiet and reserved Webber, who is just carrying out orders and doing his job.