Historic rescue remembered in ‘The Finest Hours’


Craig Gillespie’s newest film, “The Finest Hours,” revisits the inspiring story of a 1952 Coast Guard mission in a way that will make you shed tears of joy while embracing the values of bravery, leadership and companionship. Right after his film “Million Dollar Arm,” Gillespie proves again that he can tell breathtaking and inspirational stories. “The Finest Hours” stars great talent—Chris Pine as Bernie Webber, Casey Affleck as Ray Sybert, and Holliday Grainger as Miriam, Bernie’s love interest.

“The Finest Hours” begins as an incredibly shy Bernie Webber, a crewman at the Coast Guard Station, goes to meet Miriam Pertinen, who has finally agreed to go on a date with him. We soon learn that Miriam is a very confident woman, slightly unconventional to the time, and is scared of the ocean. The film fast forwards to the couple at a ballroom event, where Miriam asks Bernie to marry her, to which Bernie accepts after some hesitation. As part of the Coast Guard station, Bernie feels the need to get permission from his station commander, Daniel Cluff (Eric Bana). But, before he gets the chance to, he is commanded to go on a rescue mission on the lifeboat CG 36500 to retrieve the passengers of the S.S. Pendleton, which is commanded by Ray Sybert. Although Bernie recognizes that this assignment could end tragically, he gathers a crew—Andrew Fitzgerald (Kyle Gallner), Ervin Maske (John Magaro) and Richard P. Livesey (Ben Foster)—and they head toward the Chatham coast.

The highlight of this film is the screenwriting, as the parallelism between Bernie and Ray portrays the value of leadership in different ways. Although Bernie begins as merely a rule follower, he learns to think for himself, and he expresses his bravery as he navigates through the waters. Ray, on the other hand, knows nothing other than commanding a ship, but later learns to yield to someone else who takes authority. Commenting on the film, Casey Affleck stated, “[the characters show] … selflessness, heroism in the face of 50 foot waves.”

The strength of the screenwriting is complimented by the performances of the actors. Pine flawlessly fits into the role of Bernie through his subtle actions and his polished accent. Pine showcases his talent in several scenes, beginning with the shy glances Bernie gives to Miriam to the part where he breaks the rules, making the decision to take on more passengers than the boat can handle. The moment in which Bernie’s crew members understand the danger of the waters but still agree to go in and face the challenge, ultimately forcing them to put aside their moral differences, is extremely powerful. Commenting on Bernie’s character evolution, Pine stated that “[risk-taking is] part of Bernie’s evolution, it’s not that following rules are bad, it’s just that Bernie, by following rules so closely, had lost his voice and, by learning to speak up for himself and to trust his instincts, trust his gut, trust his knowledge of those waters, I think … that’s really good.”

Affleck has equally strong moments, as he portrays the stoic Ray Sybert, who valiantly instructs the passengers of the ship to what needs to be done in order to keep the boat afloat. There is also a crucial moment in which he faces his own flaws and understands that it might be beneficial to be submissive at the end. The film glorifies the aspect of trust, as each of the characters go out of their way for their fellow men. As Affleck mentioned, the film as a strong focus on the inner direction, mentioning a moral compass, within each of the characters.

The romance between Bernie and Miriam is what makes this film magical. Miriam, a strong woman, leads the relationship, which is  somewhat unconventional for the time, but also balances her traditional values. When she is seen in Cluff’s office, forcefully pleading Cluff to tell Bernie to come back, she shows the strength of her love to her man. Miriam’s strong character ultimately allows Bernie to make his own decisions, even if that means he must sometimes break the rules.

With stunning visuals, “The Finest Hours” is able to focus on the humanitarian values of heroes of the 1952 Coast Guard Mission. Although not as adventurous as a typical disaster drama, the film does not fail to make the audience delighted by the rescue. “The Finest Hours” is increasingly inspiring and magical as it progresses and will leave you satisfied.

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