Tales of heroism are not lacking in the cinematic universe, but it takes a special mix of emotion, thrill and, let’s face it, some really great CGI at times, to truly make an impact so that we, as an audience go on the hero’s journey with the character on the screen. In Disney’s latest, The Finest Hours, director Craig Gillespie does exactly that in his film adaptation of the real life account in the novel of the same name, The Finest Hours. Putting together a team that has worked on other true account films like Apollo 13, Gillespie puts you in the movie, so to speak, which is crucial if you really want reality to come through.
In 1952, a vicious nor’easterner hits the New England coast, and in it’s path, rips apart two oil tankers, the SS Mercer and the SS Pendleton. The SS Mercer had most of the rescue effort, since they were able to let off a distress signal, but the SS Pendleton lost all power and communication methods before it could do so. One of the ship’s engineers, Ray Sybert (Casey Affleck), through a variety of smarts and skill, tasked himself to keep the ship afloat until rescuers could reach them. The rescuers that set out for the rescue mission are Chatham Coast Guards, the newly engaged Bernie Webber (Chris Pine), Richard Livesey (Ben Foster), Ervin Maske (John Magaro) and Andy Fitzgerald (Kyle Gallner)…with one major strike against them- the tiniest rescue boat I have ever seen. While the boys brave the vicious waters (and I mean VISCIOUS…ooph!), learning what it takes to live with someone’s whose job is to run into the face of danger, is Miriam (Holliday Grainger) who goes through an inner battle of her own, showing an independence and strength, not of the norm in those days.
A lot of why this adaptation works is by Gillespie’s own vision, and really putting it all into the harrowing ocean scenes that, if I am honest left me feeling literally cold (I reached for my sweater a few times!) and a bit sea wobbly. While at times the dialog during the slower scenes felt a bit choppy, and the film was maybe 20 minutes too long, the cast gives pretty great performances, worthy of each hero they portray. They clearly hold their own against the biggest character the movie has, the perilous and torrential ocean waters, which is awe inducing and much more real than any other “fake” ocean we have seen yet.
The Finest Hours is now open and is rated PG-13.