The Finest Hours

The Finest Hours

(PG) Starring Chris Pine, Casey Affleck, Ben Foster

For many people, there is no greater fear than to drown at sea. Many choose not to even set foot on a boat. Then, there are those who choose to make their livelihood at sea and go out everyday onto the waters of the earth.

The biggest challenge facing those who work on the seas is the weather. In February 1952, one of the most treacherous sea-storms ever formed off the East Coast of the United States of America. A freighter named The Pendleton was on route to the US but, during the storm, it was torn in half. The rear of the ship was able to remain afloat, with 36 crewmen on board. However, they had little hope of survival due to having no means of communication or steering. The captain had gone down with the front half of the ship, leaving engine-room engineer Ryan Seybert (Casey Affleck) in charge.

On the mainland, Boatswain’s Mate First Class Bernie Webber (Chris Pine) and the Coast Guard are made aware of the Pendleton’s dire need but don’t see how they can rescue the stranded crew. With the storm in full force, The Coast Guard’s Commander Daniel Cluff (Eric Bana) decides to send a crew out to attempt to save the men aboard the damaged tanker. Reluctantly, Bernie and three volunteers take a lifeboat out to assist the sailors on the stranded wreck.

The Finest Hours gives a glimpse into an era where things seemed to be straightforward and simpler. Men were men and, often, hope drove people’s choices more than logic. The style and storytelling of The Finest Hours provides a look into actual accounts of a real-life heroic event, but it also brings the refreshing quality of a straightforward era.

Each layer of the characters’ lives in this dire situation may not have been shown, but director Craig Gillespie (Million Dollar Arm) brings a needed focus to this harrowing nautical event. This ensures we are not to be distracted by unnecessary details. The characters also are unapologetically portrayed as real and noble. Even with all the odds stacked against them, the men of this small Coast Guard unit put their lives on the line for the sake of saving strangers on an unreachable vessel at sea.

The cast is right on every count, from Chris Pine to Ben Foster (The Program), who gives one of the best performances of his career. But the stand-out work is given by Casey Affleck (Triple 9). It is hard to miss the younger Affleck brother this year because of his involvement in a multitude of projects, and this is the right role for his acting prowess. His command of the character provides Gillespie with the right on-screen leadership to keep hope alive on the damaged ship.

It is hard to punch holes in the sides of this film, but the weakness for many in this skeptical age might be the believability of this rescue attempt. Interestingly, this story of deliverance is accurate, except for only a few minor points of artistic license. The Finest Hours may seem unbelievable, but this water-soaked journey is portrayed with careful dignity and accuracy.

This is one of the rare films that could not be more highly recommended for the whole family to enjoy. It is heroic, entertaining and gives a glimpse into the hearts of people who lived during a time where their desires went beyond their own self-interest.

This is a film for anyone who wants to see and celebrate the men and women who put their lives on the line for their neighbours. All of us should be thanking the individuals that put their own lives at risk, for the sake of the community. Bushfire fighters, police officers, the armed forces, ambulance drivers and more. What makes these men and women willing to put forward their lives for the sake of others? Whatever their motivation, we need to show gratitude for their sacrifice and pray for their safety in the dire moments when no-one else is willing to go to the aid of others.

 

What are some of the bigger questions to consider from this film?

  1. What is sacrificial love? (John 15:13, Ephesians 5:25)
  2. Should we do more volunteer work? (Matthew 7:12, Acts 20:35)
  3. What should we do in difficult times? (John 16:33, Philippians 4:6-7)

 

Russell Matthews works for City Bible Forum Sydney and is a film blogger

 

 

 

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