“The Finest Hours” doesn’t bring anything new to the period-piece sea rescue genre, but that doesn’t stop it from being an incredible story with endearing characters.
It’s a story of land and sea. On land, you have Bernie Webber (Chris Pine) and his girl, Miriam (Holliday Grainger). They are in love and have just set a date to get married. Webber is in the Coast Guard, which means when the storm comes in, he has to go out — and the storm has just arrived.
Now we go out to sea, where an oil tanker has split in half and is foundering. Ray Sybert (Casey Affleck) is in charge of a scared crew trying to survive.
Land and sea collide when Webber is asked to go out in the most dangerous storm he has ever seen and rescue the sinking ship’s crew with no guarantee he’s going to make it back for his wedding day.
It’s sometimes hard to figure out what kind of story is being told. Is it a love story between a woman and a man who has a deadly job to do? Is a story about a group of men who decide to work together to survive? Or is it a story about a good man who, despite insurmountable odds, decides to risk his life to save a group of strangers?
The indecisiveness sometimes makes the story as wobbly as the sea, but by the end it all works itself out — because the characters do. Webber is a man who is undeterred and will follow the rules no matter what. If he goes out, he won’t come back until he has finished the job.
Sybert is a quiet man, but he knows his ship. He knows what the crew needs to do to survive, and the men learn to follow his lead.
And Miriam isn’t like the other girls. She’s headstrong and will not sit around waiting to see if Webber is going to come back. She’s going to do whatever she can, no matter how little, to make sure her man comes home safe.
The only real bad guy in the movie is the storm itself — and it is brutal, even more so in 3D. The waves hit the boat, and you feel like it just hit you. There are incredible moments of seeing an entire boat under water or going through a wave. You feel cold and wet watching every wave crash.
I initially thought the film didn’t use 3D enough, and could have used more of the rise and fall of the stormy seas. But when I left feeling a little seasick, I decided there was plenty. If you are prone to motion sickness, I’d suggest skipping the 3D version.
The only real problem with “The Finest Hours” is there isn’t anything that makes it really stand out. Nothing, other than the impossibly true story it’s based on, will make you go “wow.” But by the time the end credits roll with actual photos of the people and events that inspired the story, it will be all you think about — other than trying to stop your head and stomach from swimming with the stormy sea.