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Film Review: Drama, tension, and celebration in ‘The Finest Hours’

Rating: B

In a dramatic representation of one of the U.S. Coast Guard’s most harrowing encounters with nature and the unforgiving sea, “The Finest Hours” thoroughly pleases all viewers with its fantastic tale of bravery and determination. The movie documents the true heroic actions of Bernie Webber, a Boatswain’s Mate First Class, and his crew as they save 32 sailors from the SS Pendleton, an oil tanker that spit in half due to a strong storm off the coast of Cape Cod, Mass. This one story of survival and rescue is really two fantastic tales of how a crew came together to save themselves and how four determined men found the courage to venture out into frightening waters to save them.

Many know him for portraying the space cowboy and starship captain James T. Kirk in the reboot “Star Trek” film series, but actor Chris Pine has actually starred in a wide array of movies, television shows and even commercials. He is still a fairly young actor and has not yet received a ton of praise for his ability, of which his portrayal of Webber in “The Finest Hours” may have been a bit of a stretch. Let’s just say he needs to work more on that heavy Massachusetts accent. Not to mention his relationship with Miriam (Holliday Grainger) lacked the necessary emotion needed for this type of disaster flick.

On the other hand, it was very interesting to see Casey Affleck flourish in the role of Ray Sybert, an engineer for the tanker who took charge of the remaining crew and formulated a plan to keep them from sinking. This is an actor who has largely accepted minor roles in movies, but held his own in this film. The way his character remains composed, even in dire situations, is one of the most interesting parts about the film. While Pine did control most of the story for the movie, the added benefit of this additional storyline made the entire movie well-rounded and worthwhile to see.

Whether you watch it in normal digital format or in Disney’s RealD 3-D format, it will not take away from some of the obviously fake visual effects shots that were needed for the scenes filmed in the ocean. According to the film’s producers, post-production for the film lasted about a year and involved shooting hundreds of visual effects shots. Due to the extensive amount of effects, this led to many of the scenes looking very unrealistic. However, many shots may have been staged simply to make the scenes more exciting. If that was the main purpose, then effects artists definitely succeeded.

Book authors Michael J. Tougias and Casey Sherman documented the rescue in their 2009 novel “The Finest Hours: The True Story of the U.S. Coast Guard’s Most Daring Sea Rescue,” but when Disney got hold of the filming right’s, the story came roaring to life. The story behind “The Finest Hours” has likely been told by generations of guardsmen, and now that it is a major motion picture, the bravery of Webber and his men will forever be memorialized in American cinema.

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