Annually, Disney Live Action films take audiences to stories about the heart of America, the everyday people who do heroic things who don’t swing Hammers that make thunder strike or drive the Millenium Falcon. It’s the teachers, the coaches, the community organizers and military who serve their fellow citizen everyday.
In this Friday’s release of The Finest Hours we get to see the remarkable true story of four Coast Guard soldiers who venture out in a little wooden boat in the middle of a huge storm to rescue 30 men from a sinking ship. Seems unlikely but this gem of a true story wasn’t widely publicized for a long time and Disney has turned this small tale of servicemen doing their job into a spectacular, edge of your seat ride where you’re rooting for everyone to make it through. The 3D visuals of the storm with massive waves and hurricane winds is enough to amp the thrill factor to one of a natural disaster movie but with real characters you care about.
Casey Affleck plays chief engineer Raymond Sybert, who is left as the senior officer when the SS Pendleton splits in half during the raging storm, his turn as the level headed logic anchor to the frenzied and scared crew brings gravitas to the chaos around him. Michael Raymond-James plays a hot headed crewmate whose drive to survive is tempered by Affleck’s steadfast manner. It would have been interesting to see that relationship flesh out a little more with Raymond-James’ talent to play a solid foil who has to learn that acting brashly isn’t always best.
The film also centers around the rescue crew of four led by Bernie Webber (Chris Pine) and his quest to make it back home safe to his fiance Miriam (Holliday Grainger). Part of the true story is that Bernie was a mild mannered man whose girlfriend proposed to him before he took the mission. Grainger transforms into a riveting Bostonian from the 50’s while also being unexpectedly progressive for a women of the time. When she takes control and encourages Webber and she be wed, she means business. And Pine plays the sensitive, aw shucks kinda guy so well. The chemistry of the two was definitely in his sweetness and her charismatic drive. And in a moment of trying to not face the prospect of manning up, Bernie takes the mission and faces unrelenting natural catastrophe to find his strength. Pine takes a person who you wouldn’t expect to step up and subtly builds a man of great courage from commitment to duty. All the actors who play his crew support the growth, Ben Foster’s serves as his right hand man Richard who encourages Webber to not always play it safe. It was fun to see Foster play a stern but sardonically funny real guy who didn’t care about how to get the job done but pushing forward to get it done.
They do indeed get to the sinking ship despite bleak prospects and broken equipment. The whole rescue sequence you’re sitting there crossing your fingers that they can all make it out alive and back to the coast. It’s incredibly stressful to watch but you won’t be able to look away. You become so endeared with both crews who bond together to make sure as many of them can survive the intense situation they’re in, that in the final act your heart feels like it’s gonna explode if someone doesn’t. The whole ensemble was solid but it would have been great to see some of the minor character actors be given more fully formed roles and be more integral to the story. Overall, The Finest Hours is a heartwarming throwback to the days where people had to take uncertain chances, get really resourceful and work through differences to find ways to help one another without technology. It was awesome to see how we take for granted how much easier things are right now and great accomplishments sometimes are just a duty and not all about glory.