HTS Moderator , Reviewer
Title: The Finest Hours
HTS Overall Score:85
“The Finest Hours” is another in a long line of “based on a true story” films that recreates the heroic rescue of 32 men aboard an oil tanker that split in half off the coast of Boston. Widely considered to the be the best and most heroic small craft rescue by the coast guard, the incident has been lovingly remembered by the city of Boston and to this day the name Bernie Weber means something to those people. “The Finest Hours” was a critical and financial failure for Disney and those initial reviews kept me from going to see in in its theatrical run. After viewing the film for myself I can understand why too. The uneven pacing and the intersection of some very poorly done and cheesy shore side scenes with Miriam and Eric Bana slow the film to a dead crawl and leave the viewer impatiently waiting for the movie to go back out to sea again so we can see the good stuff.
Bernie Weber (Chris Pine) is a good guy. He’s in love with the beautiful Miriam (Holliday Grainger) and they are set to get married in a couple of months. Being in the coast guard he has a bit of a dangerous job, but usually nothing too wild, but today may be the most stressful day of his and Miriam’s life. A huge storm has come off the coast and run an oil tanker to the point where it split in two pieces. Bernie has to watch as the entire fleet of rescue vessels head off into the storm to attempt a rescue. Unbeknownst to them there are actually TWO oil tankers out there, just miles apart, and this second one has also succumbed to the storm and severed right down a welding seam. Realizing too late that there are more than one vessel in distress, the station commander (Eric Bana) has to send out Bernie Weber, Richard Livesey (Ben Foster) and two other novices in a small boat to try and rescue the survivors.
While running out into a ship crushing gale may seem like a tall task, the location of the ship is what made this venture so much worse. Not only did they have to make it through a storm, but make it over the bar, a deadly shallow are that was filled with constantly shifting sand shoals that could gut a boat if the skipper wasn’t paying deadly attention. Though of course we already know the outcome of that effort, it still is incredibly terrifying watching 24 year old Bernard Weber navigating a boat that is barely bigger than your average fishing boat in my neighbor’s yard through a storm that should have just torn them to shreds. The ability to watch man battle nature, and while not exactly WIN (being that nature is a force no one WINS against), come out and survive some of the deadliest riptides and powerfully crushing waves of water in existence.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=70905[/img]“The Finest Hours” was trashed in the box office and has limped to a single disc 2D Blu-ray despite having been shown theatrically in 3D (which would have been nice to view the film in). I can understand WHY it got beat up at the box office as there are some pacing issues that really draw the film down a bit. The portions of the film where we see Bernie and the men of the oil tanker struggling to survive are simply fantastic. It’s a simple story of man vs. wild, and that is played as an advantage here. I was captivated by the two different ships and their innate desire to survive, even when it seemed like the sea had every desire to keep them from getting back to the shore in one piece. Casey Affleck does an admirable job as makeshift skipper (after the front half of the ship is torn apart and sent to meet Davey Jones) and his native Boston accent makes it a bit more believable too. Chris Pine feels a bit stodgy and bland as Bernie Weber, but it seems to be a directorial choice as he’s usually a very animated and cocky character in his films. Ben Foster actually takes a backseat as the mild mannered Richard Livesey (and is ironically another native Boston resident), but never once draws attention to himself or his character, letting Richard blend in as one of the crew.
Now for the bad. No matter how great the bits at sea are, we have some very awkward and cheesy writing when it comes to the landlubbers. Miriam is shoehorned into the film to create some sort of “wife at home” tension for the audience to grab onto, but she ends up being a detriment as her lines seem overly stupid and poorly acted. The bit where she begs Eric Bana’s character to have them turn back is incredibly wince worthy as she woodenly repeats the same line over and over. It also doesn’t help that the melodrama with Bernard not being able to save another boat years ago is never fully fleshed out and serves as a distraction from the actual rescue that is taking place at the moment. So as I said, there are some great parts to “The Finest Hours”, but also some really frustrating parts that keep the film from ever reaching into the upper echelons of survival films.
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of peril
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=70913[/img]The 2.40:1 scope image on Disney’s Blu-ray isn’t a wildly shocking or flashy picture, but it is accurate and crisply shot on Arri Alexa plus digital cameras. The film is bathed in dim shadows and dark contrasted areas such as the interior of the tanker ships and the overcast snowy landscapes of the shore. Colors tend to be rather muted with a greenish yellow tinge that is contrasted by splashes of vibrant color that pops up here and there (think the blood red lipstick of Miriam, or the burnished boils on Frank’s broken arm, or the roiling blue of the ocean when light hits it). Black levels are fantastic throughout, despite the low light levels and show no signs of major crush or washed out and greying detail levels. Fine detail is incredibly precise and full detailed from the soft makeup of Miriam to the individual grains of dirt and blood on the seamen’s face aboard the derelict ship. As I said, it’s not flashy, but the transfer is nearly impeccably done from a technical standpoint and shows no real signs of any digital artifacts to mar the bleak setting.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=70921[/img]It doesn’t take more than 15 minutes before the listener is queued in to the fact that this is going to be a crushing soundtrack. The opening few minutes starts out with a very front heavy experience that relies on soft dialog and mild ambiance, but once we get out into the ocean with the track kicks itself into high gear with a rushing and roaring experience that is truly enveloping. The creaking and groaning of the tanker is precise and accurate with pings and tweaks to the metal hull that shifts and moves with location of the characters on screen and is distinct in their tone and sonic texture. The roaring see throbs and pulses with the sheer force of nature causing the subs to keep in constant action from the powerful storm. Dialog is never hard to hear, but sadly the accents had me turning on the subtitles more than once due to my ears not being familiar with a New England dialect (which is no fault of the track, but rather a warning for the western U.S. members who aren’t as familiar with the east U.S.). Spot on one of the best 7.1 tracks I’ve heard in quite some time and again proves that Disney really has a handle on their audio encodes.
• Against All Odds: The Bernie Webber Story – Visit the quaint and close-knit town of Chatham, and experience the events surrounding the most heroic Coast Guard rescue ever through the eyes of the people who witnessed them.
• Brotherhood – Cast members reflect on the bonds they forged during the shoot.
• Two Crews – Pine and Affleck share insights into Bernie Webber and Ray Sybert, men who led their respective crews against all odds.
• What Is Your Finest Hour? – A Coast Guard member recounts an incredible rescue.
• The Finest Inspiration: The US Coast Guard – Meet the people who put their lives on the line for others.
• Deleted Scenes – "A Desperate Idea" and "The Story of How They Met"
“The Finest Hours” is a solid enough picture, but one marred by the lack of originality and pizazz that a truly great film aspires to add to the experience. I can understand why Disney considers the film a financial flop, as it has enough clichés and standard tropes as many other failed films, but I still enjoyed the experience more than enough to give it a single thumbs up. The audio and video are nothing short of amazing and the thrilling moments outweigh the more clichéd romantic drama bits that slow the film down more than once. Definitely worth a watch at the very least. Recommended.
Starring: Chris Pine, Casey Affleck, Ben Foster
Directed by: Craig Gillespie
Written by: Scott Silver, Paul Tamasy
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1 AVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 7.1, French (Canadian), Spanish DD 5.1
Studio: Disney/Buena Vista
Runtime: 117 minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: May 17th 2016
Buy The Finest Hours On Blu-ray at Amazon
More about Mike