The Finest Hours is a humbling story with visual grandeur. The movie directed by Craig Gillespie, brings to the silver screen the true story of the Pendleton rescue attempt that was accomplished in 1952 by Coast Guard ships. The screenplay by Scott Silver, Eric Johnson, and Paul Tamasy smartly adapts the book by Casey Sherman and Michael J. Tougias, which accounts the way two oil tankers were split asunder by the treacherous nor’easter winter winds and waves.
This cinematic gem reverberates with the colors and sociology of the 1950s, which complements the extraordinary special effects of the rescue mission that took place off of Cape Cod. This film truly makes you sink in (pun intended) the virulent calamitousness of the ocean. Viewers will feel the splashes and the wind gushing as the two oil tankers—SS Fort Mercer and SS Pendleton—get destroyed, whilst the tiny rescue boat challenges the perils of the sea to run to their rescue.
Gillespie brilliantly bring the ship to life with his camerawork, swooping up and down through the layers of the ship, following the crew as they yell messages through the corridors in an elaborate game of telephone. The tanker is populated by various types of sailors who enrich the parterre, from the Scotsman (Graham McTavish) to the insubordinate (Michael Raymond James). There’s also the jolly cook (Abraham Benrubi) who croons the Guys and Dolls number, that was relatively new at the time, “Sit Down, You’re Rockin’ the Boat.”
Little does he or his fellow crewmen know how much their boat will start rockin’ and rollin’ in a few moments. This creates a looming bitter irony, as the audience foresees the imminent threat.
The entire cast fully embodies the spirit of the time. Chris Pine embraces, with great sensitivity, the rectitude and sense of decency of Bernie Webber, who follows the order of Chief Warrant Officer Daniel Cluff (Eric Bana) to go on the daring rescue mission and save more than 30 sailors trapped inside a tanker’s sinking stern. Just as enticing is Casey Affleck’s interpretation of engineer Ray Sybert, who bravely takes charge to organize a strategy for his fellow survivors aboard the T-2 oil tanker that was bound for Boston.
Affleck manages to turn his man of few words into the movie’s most compelling figure. But almost as powerful is Holliday Grainger, whose character brings a magnifying glass on the gender politics of the era. She plays the coxswain’s fiancée Miriam, a woman that’s as feisty as Webber is rule-bound.
Miriam does not abide by the social rules of the decade when women were expected to wait and hope, complying to the man’s world decisions. Miriam is proactive, she takes action, and she has the initiative of asking Bernie to get married. She also has just as much balls as any of the men since she goes to Officer Cluff and demands him to bring back her husband-to-be. But in spite of Miriam being the one “to wear the pants” in the relationship, at the end of the day Webber will prove to be one of those silent sort of heroes that history often forgets—at least until literature and now cinema pays tribute to him.
The movie majestically portrays the man-versus-nature theme, with enticing pathos that will keep you on the edge of your seat. As a CGI film set on the high seas, it surely proves to be more enthralling than Ron Howard’s recent seafaring saga, In The Heart of The Sea. And when the moment of truth comes, The Finest Hours is a fully respectable nautical nail-biter. You agonize with the protagonists’ plight as the tiny rescue boat climbs one giant wave after the next, being frequently submerged and rolled end over end. Suspense commingles with human drama and the outcome is a complete thrill ride spectacle. The Finest Hours relives a perilous and forgotten rescue, and turns out to be the ideal movie to escape from the winter blizzards now tormenting the east coast.