Of course, Disney’s The Finest Hours begs instant comparisons to 2000’s Oscar-nominated George Clooney film The Perfect Storm.
Hours, too, is based on a real-life nautical nightmare. It, too, features a bleak New England setting. Deadly storm. Handsome hero. Swarthy, seafaring types barking brave declarations. A pretty, plucky woman back home refusing to give up hope. And dazzler special effects that may leave you a landlubber for life.
But where Storm’s seafarers were fisherman caught unawares, The Finest Hours doubles the jeopardy, focusing its story on the converging fates of two imperiled vessels and the men aboard them.
The larger boat, the sprawling oil tanker the S.S. Pendleton, breaks up in a wintertime nor’easter in 1952, leaving its captain and seven crewman dead and 33 others scrambling to keep half a ship afloat with little more than the ingenuity of chief engineer Ray Sybert (Casey Affleck). Assigned to find the wreckage, Coast Guard coxswain Bernie Webber and three volunteers board an aging rescue boat for a seemingly impossible mission: save far more people than the 12-man craft could hold, in deadlier seas than it’s built to endure.
That makes for one heck of a nail-biter, especially when you remind yourself that what transpires replicates what is still considered the greatest small boat rescue in Coast Guard history, even after six decades and myriad technological advancements.
My husband had once concern, though. Namely, the prospect of seeing Pine — Capt. Kirk of his beloved Star Trek films — undone by a Boston brogue and period dress. The film’s opening moments — in which Webber nervously preps for a first date with his dream girl Miriam (Holliday Grainger) — take care of that business nicely. Pine embodies Webber’s look, quiet heroics and the era just fine; in fact, he seems perfectly suited to all of it. So does Grainger, with her heart-shaped, porcelain face and crimson cupid’s-bow mouth. A fetching and nervy smart cookie, Miriam is mostly on hand to reflect Webber’s own tender heart and ironclad sense of honor — but she adds a nice dose of levity to the proceedings, as well.
Then there’s Affleck’s Sybert. He’s a no-nonsense fellow who clearly prefers the inner workings of a ship to the company of the men who inhabit it — a man of few words and much action. That’s exactly what the Pendleton survivors need in these life-or-death hours, but the combination leads to a few too many tight shots of Affleck pausing to grimace more like a put-upon dad than the ship’s appointed superhero. A little more insight Sybert’s own inner workings (and mental health) might have served the story well.
The Finest Hours’ finest moments happen aboard the Pendleton, where sweeping shots of gargantuan gears and chains and straining beams — and the resolute men trying to save themselves and each other — make the moment these two vessels finally meet in the night all the more poignant and satisfying.
The Finest Hours is available beginning May 24 on Video On Demand. Check your cable system for availability.
© Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved Credit: Claire Folger