The Finest Hours

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21/02/16

A rare Disney vehicle that doesn’t involve animation or slapstick humour, The Finest Hours (forgettable title) is based on a true story and depicts a daring rescue mission carried out in the heart of a terrible storm off Cape Cod in 1952. In terrifying conditions, a huge oil tanker is not so much battered by the storm as actually ripped in two, drowning its captain and most of the crew, but leaving the rear section still afloat with thirty two men on board. It’s down to quietly spoken engine-room man, Ray Sybert (Casey Afflick) to take control of the situation and devise a way of keeping what’s left of the tanker above the waterline until help gets there – but in the days before GPS location existed, how is anybody ever going to find them?

Help eventually comes in the shape of handsome coastguard officer, Bernie Weber (the angel-faced Chris Pine)  who has recently become engaged to the feisty Miriam (Holliday Grainger). Having failed to save some local seamen in a recent maritime tragedy, Weber has something to prove, so despite being warned by all and sundry that he’s embarking on a suicide mission, he selects three plucky crewmen and sets off into the heart of the storm, trusting on good luck and previous experience to guide him.This would seem unlikely if it didn’t hap[pen to be true.

The Finest Hours is a handsomely mounted film, that has much to recommend it. The period detail is convincingly evoked, there are nice performances from the ensemble cast and the storm at sea sequences are suitably immersive, occasionally downright thrilling. If in the end it’s all a bit reminiscent of The Perfect Storm, it matters not one jot, because if the aims of this film were to entertain and enthral then it achieves them with ease. In what’s becoming an increasingly popular trope, the end credits show images of the real life heroes alongside their screen counterparts, allowing us to see just how faithful the filmmakers have been to their source material.

A word of warning though. Anyone planning a cruise in the near future may want to give this one a miss.

4.2 stars

Philip Caveney

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