The Finest Hours is based off the true story coxswain Bernie Webber (Chris Pine) and his rescue mission of 30 sailors at the height of one of the worst storms in Massachusetts history. The year is 1958 and Webber is a “by the book” kind of man who is dealing with the guilt of a failed rescue mission from the year before, resulting in the death of local sailors. The Finest Hours is transparent in some things as so many films are, the growth of the protagonist, romance, and the 10:1 odds of failure that the characters defeat. Nothing wrong with that, it’s a formula that’s worked throughout the ages, but something in the first half of the movie sang untrue.
We are introduced to a nervous Bernie getting ready to go on a date with a young woman named Miriam, a young woman who is quite the opposite of Bernie in her bold and assertive ways. For the longest time I was not sure how Miriam (Holliday Grainger) was supposed to come off. Was she supposed to be so bossy and assertive that Bernie is turned off or was she supposed to come off as tough as nails and “not like other girls” that left the audience to quietly chuckle in admiration? Turns out it was the latter. Not quite sure if it was the way the role was written or the actress herself, but nothing about Miriam came off as charming to me, quite the opposite actually.
My biggest issue besides the nondescript title of The Finest Hours, was the fact that it took so long to really get going. There were many extra storylines that just did not feel at all necessary. We had Bernie’s life with Miriam and the coast guard which made sense since the film’s about him, we followed the dynamics on the SS Pendleton in need of rescue, and then the story of Miriam asserting her dominance in demanding things of Bernie’s chief after he’s Bernie’s sent on the rescue mission, and then an awkward exchange between Miriam and the wife of the woman who lost her husband in the storm during the year’s prior. Not to mention Bernie’s actual rescue itself, which really was astounding. In all honesty, the storyline took on too much and floundered for a while.
The Finest Hours is a classic -hero finds it in himself to draw on courage he didn’t know he had and accomplish the impossible. A true story, a visually satisfying period piece, a beautifully terrifying CGI storm, redemption, a little bit of love, and heart dropping scenes around every corner (at least in the second half of the film). Overall, I think this would make a good family film for children over 9-10. Parents will like the adventure as much as the kids and everyone can talk about the real life hero, Bernie Webber.
I liked the computer technology that created the storm as well as all the special effects on SS Pendleton that really made you feel like you were aboard a sinking ship. 3D was not a necessary option for The Finest Hours, I think that should be saved for guys in capes but perhaps it did add to the impenetrable waves and Massachusetts winter. All I know is once we finally left the port, I was on board with where the ship was sailing.