This heroic action-thriller is based on the extraordinary true story of the greatest small-boat rescue in Coast Guard history. In 1952, a massive winter storm strikes off the coast of Cape Cod, ripping a T-2 oil tanker in half and trapping more than 30 sailors inside its rapidly sinking stern. When word of the disaster reaches the U.S. Coast Guard, four men led by Captain Bernie Webber (Chris Pine) set out in a 12-seat boat on a daring mission to rescue the stranded men, braving freezing cold, 60-foot waves and hurricane-force winds, and guided by Webber's vow that "We all live, or we all die." Packed with thrilling, larger-than-life action and anchored in a belief in the strength of the human spirit, The Finest Hours is a triumph.
Disney's based-on-a-true-story movies have a signature look and feel. From 'Remember the Titans,' to 'McFarland, USA,' all these true-life hero films pulsate with an undeniably squeaky-clean Disney sheen. Despite that patented gloss, 'The Finest Hours' manages to be intense, heroic, and feature a Chris Pine performance that is decidedly anti-Captain Kirk.
The screenplay is based on the book "The Finest Hours: The True Story of the U.S. Coast Guard's Most Daring Sea Rescue," written by Casey Sherman and Michael Tougias. The story contained therein is still hailed as one of the Coast Guards greatest rescues. The time is 1952. The place: Chatham, Massachusetts. During a particularly terrible blizzard, rough seas tear two oil tankers in half. The Fort Mercer is the first to be sent rescue vessels. However, the Coast Guard is initially unaware that the same catastrophe has befallen the SS Pendleton. This is the story of the men on the Pendleton and those tasked with saving their lives.
On shore Bernie Webber (Pine) is a Coast Guard officer tasked with mundane operations. He usually spends his days in the lazy, but frigid town of Chatham, helping fishermen tie up their boats. He constantly lives with the memory of men he wasn't able to save. It's something that eats at him. He's also looking forward to marrying his fiancée Miriam (Holliday Grainger).
Pine plays against type, and does it well. We're used to seeing him play egotistical showboats like Captain Kirk in the new 'Star Trek' movies, but here's he's the complete antithesis. Bernie is a stickler for the rules and someone who is quietly willing to take on the impossible even if it means giving his life.
One member of the Pendleton crew stands out, mechanic Ray Sybert (Casey Affleck). Unlike Pine, Affleck is playing his quintessential role. He has the tortured loner thing down pat. Affleck is nothing but consistent with these types of roles. Here he's tasked with keeping the crew together, all the while thinking up seemingly impossible solutions to their problem. How do you steer half an oil tanker? Ray Sybert knows how.
The main thrust of the film, and its chief source of entertainment comes from the hair-raising action scenes. Once Webber is sent out with a team to rescue the crew of the Pendleton, the tension never lets up. It's one of those movies, like 'The Revenant,' where the icy weather seems to seep through the screen, becoming almost tangible.
As Webber's little boat bounces off monster wave after monster wave imagining the real-life scenario becomes difficult to fathom. As is made abundantly clear, just getting out of the harbor on a night like this was considered suicide, yet Webber and his crew took on the task because it was their job.
The effects are superb. It's immersive, dynamic action. Which is more than what can be said for many modern action movies. Director Craig Gillespie allows the audience to experience the raw power of the ocean and the wintery elements. The effects are straight-forward and effective. It's everything that "In the Heart of the Sea" wasn't.
Sure, Disney can't help but apply their fantastical varnish. At least that's what Bernie's blissful romance with Miriam feels like. Yet, even with that predictability 'The Finest Hours' is compelling in its purpose. It captures a moment of American heroism, dresses it up in modern special effects, and produces a pulse-pounding thriller with a great heart.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
This is a single-disc release that comes with a 50GB Blu-ray. It also comes with a Disney code that controls your digital copy. As always, Disney provides fast and easy access to the menu and the ability to skip pre-menu trailers.
The 1080p presentation mirrors the extraordinary visuals shown during the movie's theatrical release. Whether Bernie and his crew are traversing black waves, or we're looking at the white windswept shores of New England, the picture looks rather stunning.
Shadows are superb here, which is crucial since so much of the movie takes place during the nighttime as Bernie and the rest of his crew motor over huge waves cloaked in darkness. Blackness is absolute. Shadows are never crushing. There isn't a hint of banding anywhere. Even when jet black waves rise up out of the obscurity of the nighttime ocean, we can still see details, shapes, edges, and so forth. Individual rain drops are easily seen, even during the most torrential downpours. Close-ups feature a wonderful array of detail, softness never rears its head.
The few moments featuring well-lit scenes pop with a few primary colors. Yes, most of the movie's color palette is either some variation of black or some variation of white, but when there is color its filmic and genuine. This is a great cinematic looking movie, made all the more so by its high definition treatment here.
This is one of the best DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 mixes I've ever heard. You could've told me it was an Atmos track and I would've believed you. That's how immersive this sound mix is. The rain is everywhere. It sounds as if it's falling right on your head. Waves crash all around the soundfield creating a realistic and sometimes frightening experience.
What's so great here is how low-key it starts off. Simple dialogue up front as Bernie goes to meet Miriam for the first time. Then we're thrust out to the Pendleton and we realize just how great this sound mix is going to be. The creaking and groaning of the ship fills up the side and surround speakers. The scene where the ship splits in half really jumpstarts what is a non-stop audio experience.
From the gale force winds howling in the surrounds, to the constant frigid rain, this mix offers pinpoint accuracy. Panning effects are smooth and precise. Sound moves seamlessly through each channel depending on where the camera is pointing. The entire soundscape is constantly humming and groaning as the Pendleton shifts and sways in the sea. Waves crash with resounding bass. There's so much here to love. This is definitely a demo-worthy disc for sure.
Against All Odds: The Bernie Webber Story (HD, 14 min.) – People from the film discuss the real-life story of Bernie Webber and his heroism.
Deleted Scenes (HD, 4 min.) – There are two deleted scenes included here: "The Story of How they Met," and "A Desperate Idea."
Brotherhood (HD, 2 min.) – A promo-style snippet of how great of a time the actors had working with each other.
Two Crews (HD, 2 min.) – A brief overview of the two main storylines shown in the movie: the Pendleton and Bernie's crew.
What is Your Finest Hour? (HD, 1 min.) – A Coast Guard officer recounts some heroism.
The Finest Inspiration: The U.S. Coast Guard (HD, 2 min.) – A short look at today's Coast Guard. Basically, a glorified recruitment video.
It's a daring tale of selfless heroism. It's got that Disney sheen that we've all come to recognize, but it's a well-made thriller. It's interesting seeing Chris Pine in a role where he isn't full of himself; he pulls it off. Even better, this disc offers up some stellar video and an absolutely amazing audio experience. It's worth buying just for the demo-worthy 7.1 mix. 'The Finest Hours' is recommended.