Off of the coast of Cape Cod in 1952, two oil tankers were split in half by a giant storm, but only one of them had a chance to send out an S.O.S. As the main Coast Guard unit worked to rescue those on the first ship, SS Fort Mercer, a handful of men left the Chatham, Massachusetts, station to conduct a suicide mission in an effort to save the thirty-three crewmen aboard the SS Pendleton. Craig Gillespie, the director of Lars and the Real Girl, shines a light on this Coast Guard rescue through the story of Boatswain’s Mate First Class Bertrand Webber (Chris Pine), and the love of his life, Miriam (Holliday Grainger). Even after a disastrous last mission, Webber is selected for an impossible mission to save thirty-three men with only a small craft built for twelve.
Now on Blu-ray, The Finest Hours is an inspirational story fit for the Walt Disney canon. Impressively split between the stories of the Coast Guard men sent out to rescue the Pendleton, those like Miriam who worked on the shore to assist them, and the crew of the Pendleton itself, the film is drenched in tension and dire straits. It does feel like a disaster film, but the performances by Pine, Grainger, and Casey Affleck make it more human, and heartfelt. While mostly saccharine (I question the PG-13 rating), it allows us to see what happens when a community comes together and people overcome their fear through courageous sacrifice.
Thanks to the special features on the Blu-ray, audiences can get a more organic look at the life of Bernie Webber in “Against All Odds,” including the viewpoints of some of the people who witnessed his heroics (and his daughter). On another special feature, “What Is Your Finest Hour?” a real-world Coast Guard member shares a real-life rescue, while “The Finest Inspiration: The U.S. Coast Guard” allows us to hear from even more CG members. Film fans will enjoy the way that the cast and crew came together in “Brotherhood”; hearing from Pine and Affleck gives us a different view of the two “crews” that anchor the story arc. [The Blu-ray also allows for the Digital HD transfer to any portable device.]
The Finest Hours represents the kind of film I remember from Disney in my childhood: inspirational, empowering, and uplifting. It’s the kind of film that I want my children to see as they grow up, to remind them that there are heroes, and that courage is overcoming your fear, not the lack of fear itself. It helps that The Finest Hours seems to hint at a faith that is bigger than in a boat, or in another person, but recognizing that a higher power has a plan – and that we can rely on it!