The Finest Hours Review
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In the midst of December’s award season rush, Ron Howard’s surprisingly sluggish high-seas thriller, In the Heart of the Sea, came and went with little fanfare. Now, just weeks later, Disney takes to the seas for The Finest Hours, another real-life adventure that fares just slightly better.

The Finest Hours tells the true story of a stormy winter day in 1952, when two tankers were both broken in half off the coast of Massachusetts. While fleets of Coast Guard ships set out to rescue one, no one knew about the Pendleton. With no means of communication, the remaining crew hatched a plan to stall for time. When a fisherman heard their whistle, he went to the Coast Guard for help—and the last remaining rescue team set out into the storm to find the missing ship.

The Finest Hours focuses its attention on Chris Pine’s mild-mannered Bernie Webber. Distrusted and often denigrated for a failed rescue mission in similar conditions, he’s the last guy that anyone would put in charge of an operation like this one—but he’s the only guy available. And though he plays everything by the book, exactly according to regulations, he’s anything but confident in his actions.

The film spends a whole lot of time developing his story, detailing his relationship with his new fiancée, Miriam (Holliday Grainger). But it doesn’t give the story the kind of emotional weight that was most likely intended. Instead, it simply develops Bernie as a likable but weak and indecisive character—not exactly the best qualities for a big-screen hero. Even at sea—after overcoming one obstacle after another—he never seems to gain confidence. While that may have been true of the real-life Bernie Webber, it just doesn’t work in an action movie. His awkwardness and apprehension will make most viewers wish that they could spend more time aboard the Pendleton, where the more interesting action and drama play out—and where Casey Affleck gives a stronger performance as an equally reluctant leader.

Fortunately, though, once Bernie and his crew board their boat and set out to sea, there’s plenty of hold-your-breath action and suspense. The pounding of the waves and the huge wall of water that the men face in their shockingly small vessel make for some gripping moments. And though there’s absolutely no reason to splurge on the 3D upcharge, the sea-faring footage is still pretty remarkable (and it’s generally more exciting than In the Heart of the Sea, too).

While it isn’t the powerful and emotional adventure that it tries so hard to be, The Finest Hours is still a decent January thriller. If you’re planning a winter vacation aboard a cruise ship, though, you might want to skip it—or at least wait until you’re back on solid ground.

Blu-ray Review:
The rescue depicted in The Finest Hours is pretty unbelievable—but the special features found on the Blu-ray release help to connect the movie to its real-life inspiration.

Most of the extras here are short promotional spots. Brotherhood examines how the cast members came together in challenging conditions. In Two Crews, Chris Pine and Casey Affleck discuss their characters—and how they became reluctant heroes. And What Is Your Finest Hour and The Finest Inspiration: The U. S. Coast Guard both focus (albeit all too briefly) on the real people who make rescues at sea.

There is, however, one longer feature, Against All Odds: The Bernie Webber Story, which takes a closer look at the true story. This isn’t just a behind-the-scenes feature with cast and crew members talking about a character they never met and a story they’ve only read on the page. It includes heartwarming interviews with Bernie’s daughter and some fascinating first-hand accounts from Chatham, Massachusetts, residents who actually witnessed the events portrayed in the film.

For the most part, the extras here are forgettable. You won’t miss much if you don’t watch the promo spots. But if you’ve got some extra time, be sure to check out Against All Odds for its continuation of this remarkable story.

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