The film tells the true story of - what is considered to be – the greatest small boat rescue in the history of the American coast guard. An oil tanker breaks in half during a severe storm with 33 crew members stranded as it slowly sinks. They race against time to stall their inevitable fate, with one engineer taking charge and thinking outside of the box. Meanwhile the coast guard sends out a four man crew in a motored lifeboat with orders to breach the treacherous and impenetrable sea bar, where the odds of survival are stacked against them.
Of course the film is based on a true story and obviously they survive. The predictability of the film is irrelevant because, after all, it's a Disney film... and a heroes story. I am sure that THE FINEST HOURS will attract the usual cynics and detractors, who prefer realism over extravagance, but those who appreciate adventure with a heavy dose of romance and charm will lap up every moment of this stunningly executed and beautifully cinematic experience.
Chris Pine and Casey Affleck lead each side of the story. Pine takes control of the rescue, while Affleck commends the crew onboard the stricken ship. Both embody a classic Hollywood bravado that was once governed by the likes of Kirk Douglas, Steve McQueen and Burt Langcaster. They fully comprehend the film's nostalgic qualities and remind us what movie stars used to be all about. The supporting cast is good with players like Ben Foster, Graham McTavish and Holliday Grainger all lending understated performances that allow the leads to dominate the screen. The one unfortunate piece of miscasting is Eric Bana as the callous Coast Guard commander. His southern accent is forced and he struggles to match the quality of talent around him. That is the result of poor casting and bares no reflection on him as an actor. Nevertheless his role is small enough for the rest of the story to overshadow.
All throughout the film my mind was cast back to some of Disney's greatest adventures such as THIRD MAN ON THE MOUNTAIN, 20 000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA and TREASURE ISLAND, and my imagination was captured by its seamless combination of action, drama and camaraderie. I felt exhilarated by what was unfolding on screen and I was reminded of how I reacted to so many epic films as a child. Disney may have glazed over the story and delivered it in a highly stylised fashion, but that's what they do best and the result speaks for itself. THE FINEST HOURS is a fitting tribute to the men who inspired the story and it honours their legacy with a film that will reach millions of people to help tell their tale.
If you take the time see this film in cinemas (and I recommend you do) then be sure to accommodate a reasonable degree of lenity. Embrace its majesty and cinematic awe, and remind yourself that this is what Disney does. It's wonderful.