After an unnecessarily long exposition, we finally meet the ill-fated SS Pendleton, a battered Type T2-SE-A1 tanker; off the Massachusetts coast, south of Cape Cod. The Pendleton was en route to Boston from New Orléans until. A sudden lurch then am loud explosion ripped the boat in half. The bow drifted more to the south and the stern, with its 33 men remained afloat in tormented seas, but quick thinking from the crew delayed the inevitable. The stern of the Pendleton had power, but was taking on more water than it could pump out; with only a few hours of buoyancy left, The Finest Hours is an overly dramatic (at times) account of the rescue attempt of those men.
Bernard “Bernie” Weber (Chris Pine) was a mild-mannered Boatswain Mate in The US Coast Guard. Nauseatingly shy, Bernie always had a wry “aw-shucks” grin on his face, especially when talking to women or his commanding officer. But there’s an undercurrent of guilt with Bernie, stemming from a recent failed rescue of a fishing boat’s crew. The small fishing community of Chatham, MA along with Bernie still recovers from the loss.
On February 18, 1952 a distress call went out from the Fort Mercer, another tanker that had suffered a similar fate. It too had been spilt in two sinking with survivors. Rescue operations had begun to save the Fort Mercer while the Pendleton struggled to stay afloat a few miles away. Briefly spotted, Chatham Coast Guard Station was alerted of the Pendleton. Bernie and a three others were dispatched on a rescue mission. However, in a small, wooden motorized life boat and an inexperienced crew, Bernie set out for the Pendleton in a mission that was more risk than reward.
The Finest Hours is entertaining enough to get you through the film, but my thoughts often drifted away from Bernie’s daily routine to the Pendleton. As a drama there’s a wealth of emotional bullion on the Pendleton. But too much time was spent on back story in Chatham and not enough on the distressed boat. Was the Pendleton’s fate avoidable? What happened the the other half of the boat? None of these questions were answered in the film. These points of interest were replaced by familiar Disney storytelling. Though it shows promise in its premise, the Finest Hours is about 70 minutes bookend by 20 minute blocks of melodrama.
Rated: PG-13 @117 MINS
NOTE: In 3D & IMAX 3D where available