One of the many things Disney is good at is the Unbelievable But True Inspirational Story! They are often about sports figures or teams but not always, like the current entry “The Finest Hours.”
It has all the key ingredients you expect from this kind of movie — it’s unbelievable, it’s true and it’s inspirational. It’s also has a very, very old fashioned feel about it. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
Directed by Craig Gillespie and based on the book “The Finest Hours: The True Story of the U.S. Coast Guard’s Most Daring Sea Rescue” by Michael J. Tougias and Casey Sherman, the film recounts a 1952 event in which a four men in a small Coast Guard boat went out into a terrible storm in search of men on a sinking oil tanker. And there’s a love story thrown in too just in case the story needed more emotional heft.
Chris Pine stars as Bernard Webber, a follow-the-regulations kinda guy working for the Coast Guard off the New England coast. As the film opens the shy and unassuming Bernard is on his first date with the more outspoken Miriam (Holliday Grainger). After a few dates she asks him to marry her, and he agrees provided he first get approval from his boss — per regulations.
But before he can secure that approval, Chief Warrant Officer Daniel Cluff (Eric Bana) has one very dangerous mission for Webber. A severe nor’easter has turned the nearby sea into the water ride from hell. So fierce is the storm that it has cut the oil tanker SS Pendleton in half. The captain and part of the crew went down with the front part of the ship but 30-plus men are still alive on the other section — somewhere in the blackness and waves.
Never one to say no to an order, Webber finds three others willing to join him and off they go into the storm. Meanwhile on the Pendleton, Ray Sybert (Casey Affleck) is doing his best to keep his crew mates alive and the ship afloat until help can arrive.
“The Finest Hours” is a 1950s-style movie with 21st century special effects. The storm sequences are impressive and unbelievable. The tension is palpable.
At the same time, the movie is pretty corny. Webber is as straight-laced and honorable as a human being can be. Sybert is the epitome of determination and always able to figure out a way to fix things. Miriam isn’t afraid to speak her mind.
These inspirational true stories have a formula all their own and Disney doesn’t steer too far ashore from it. If you like these kinds of movies then you’re sure to enjoy “The Finest Hours.”