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Movie Review

The Finest Hours

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for intense sequences of peril.

Reviewed by: Raphael Vera
CONTRIBUTOR

Better than Average
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Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Adults Teens
Genre:
History Action Thriller Adaptation 3D IMAX
Length:
1 hr. 57 min.
Year of Release:
2016
USA Release:
January 29, 2016 (wide—3,000+ theaters)
DVD: May 24, 2016
Copyright, Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures click photos to ENLARGE Copyright, Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures Copyright, Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures Copyright, Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures Copyright, Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures Copyright, Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures Copyright, Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures Copyright, Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures Copyright, Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures Copyright, Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Relevant Issues
Copyright, Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

A historic photo gallery of the Pendleton and Fort Mercer rescues (1952)

bravery / courage / self-sacrifice

FEAR, Anxiety and Worry—What does the Bible say? Answer

taking action based on Biblical principles of love and self-sacrifice

how to live our lives in a God-honoring way


the valuable service of the Coast Guard

“I reasoned that I was a Coast Guard First Class Boatswain Mate. My job was the sea and to save those in peril upon it.” —Bernard C. Webber


BOOKS about this event:
Chatham: “The Lifeboatmen”, by Bernie Webber
Two Tankers Down, by Robert Frump
The Pendleton Disaster Off Cape Cod: The Greatest Small Boat Rescue in Coast Guard History, by Theresa M. Barbo with Captain W. Russell Webster, USCG (Ret.)
The Finest Hours: The True Story of the U.S. Coast Guard’s Most Daring Sea Rescue, by Michael J. Tougias and Casey Sherman

Featuring: Chris PineBernie Webber (Bernard C. Webber)
Holliday Grainger … Miriam Penttinen
Casey AffleckRay Sybert
Ben FosterSeaman Richard P. Livesey
Kyle Gallner … Petty Officer 3rd Class Andrew J. Fitzgerald
John Magaro … Seaman Ervin E. Maske
Eric BanaChief Daniel Cluff
Rachel Brosnahan … Bea Hansen
Graham McTavish … Frank Fauteux
Michael Raymond-James
Abraham Benrubi … Cook George D. “Tiny” Myers
Josh Stewart … Tchuda Southerland
more »
Director: Craig Gillespie—“Million Dollar Arm” (2014), “Fright Night” (2011), “Lars and the Real Girl” (2007), “Mr. Woodcock” (2007)
Producer: Walt Disney Pictures
Whitaker Entertainment
more »
Distributor: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Based on the actual events that took place the night of February 17th, 1952, “The Finest Hours” chronicles the splitting in two of the tanker SS Pendleton during a severe “nor’easter” off the New England coast, the desperate seamen’s attempts to keep the partial ship afloat during the few hours they had left to live, and the U.S. Coast Guard’s efforts to reach them during that time. At the film’s core are the two men whom destiny has chosen to take the center stage: SS Pendleton engineer Ray Sybert (Casey Affleck) and Boatswain’s Mate First Class Bernard C. Webber (Chris Pine).

In the winter of 1951, it is a somewhat shy and unassuming Bernard Webber who has just met the girl of his dreams by the name of Miriam (Holliday Grainger). The only thing holding him back from marriage is his fear of leaving one night on a rescue mission and never returning.

On the Pendleton, the storm that soon hits the coast has Sybert worried that the ship’s welding won’t be able to take the 40 to 60 foot waves’ fury much longer. His fears are soon realized, when the ship is ripped in half, sending the Captain and his bridge crew to their deaths, leaving the rest of the crew to surely follow before the night is through.

Upon learning that the Pendleton needs their help, Coast Guard Chief Cluff (Eric Bana) orders Webber to assemble a crew of four and rescue as many as they can. The drama unfolds by shifting back and forth between Webber’s ‘suicide’ mission and Sybert, who along with the men of the Pendleton try every trick in the book, and even invent a few new one’s along the way, in order to stave off her sinking long enough for someone—anyone—to reach them.

A hurricane level storm, a fast-sinking ship, an impossible barrier to cross separating Webber and his small crew from the Pendleton’s makes for an intense and at times gripping tale with only a few items of concern worth noting.

Objectionable Content

Violence: Moderate to heavy. No blood or graphic death’s are shown, but what is seen includes men being pummeled by water, crushed underneath debris, drowned in the ocean and slammed against the hull of the ship. Peril is always at the forefront of the film and more than once it appears that all hope is lost for the crew of the Pendleton. Sybert has to fight to keep the crew from abandoning ship. The on-screen deaths, as well as those implied, as when the front end of the Pendleton first sinks, makes this film too violent for impressionable children. The PG-13 rating is based primarily on this content and could have been rated PG, if these images had toned down.

Language: Most of the usual curse words are absent, but the film does include: “jackass” (1), “damn” (1), h*ll (6), s-word (1), and “scr** you” (1) and one time someone says, “looks like she cut off your…”, but is interrupted before he can finish the sentence. The Lord’s name, however, is taken in vain five times including one “God-d***” and a single “Jesus Christ,” “My G*d,” “Oh G*d,” “Oh my G*d.” On a better note, the Lord’s name is used in a positive or neutral way a few times, as in “Godspeed” and “Jesus, Joseph and Mary,” and in describing marriage between a man, woman and God.

Sex/Nudity: Minor. On board the Pendleton, “pin-up” girls are seen, but they are in swimsuits. The only kissing is between Webber and his girlfriend, and it is apparent that their relationship is a serious, committed one that is leading to marriage and is not lustful, but rather very respectful and caring. This is something rarely seen now in films, which usually take the more lascivious route when covering other actual events (i.e., “Pearl Harbor”).

Editor’s Note: Bernie Webber’s father was a Baptist pastor, and so Bernie heard hundreds of sermons and prayers in his youth. The real Bernie and Miriam were married in 1950 (by his father), long before the SS Pendleton event; the film diverged from fact this for drama’s sake. The rescue, however, is reportedly depicted as it actually happened. During the difficult trip from the Pendleton back to shore, in the terrible dark storm—without benefit of working navigation system, Bernie always said “The Lord’s hand was on my shoulder.” Miriam said, “That’s who showed him were to go.” Bernie and Miriam had a long and faithful marriage (59 years).

Lessons

Lessons abound in this film, not only because of individual heroics, but by the integrity exhibited by the two main characters who are similar in so many ways.

Humility—There is never a guarantee that either Webber or Sybet’s crew will survive, but both men, by their actions and by their humble leadership inspire their crews to have hope, when hope seems out of reach. The Bible speaks often on the value of this virtue, how we should embody this in our lives and also how God will reward us for being humble. Sybert and Webber’s bearing during these hours are good examples of how we all should comport ourselves.

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves.” —Philippians 2:3

“In your majesty ride forth victoriously in the cause of truth, humility and justice; let your right hand achieve awesome deeds.” —Psalm 45:4

“But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.” —James 4:6

“Before a downfall the heart is haughty, but humility comes before honor.” —Proverbs 18:12

Prayer—When the crew of the Pendleton first realize their dire situation, they first gather and pray silently together for the crewmen lost on the other half of the ship. Though there is one dissenter, and isn’t there always, they do what comes naturally to all of us. The Word of God calls us to do no less, but at all occasions, not just in times of trouble.

“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing;” —1 Thessalonians 5:16-17

“I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling;” —1 Timothy 2:8

Speech—When Webber asks a favor of a local fisherman, he speaks to his elder with respect and humility. Unfortunately, someone who believes much less of Webber speaks up and slanders him by implication. Instead of defending himself or reacting in defense, Webber simply apologizes. Our world offers us opportunities every day to speak poorly, but God is clear on how we must control what we say in order to avoid evil.

“What goes into someone’s mouth does not defile them, but what comes out of their mouth, that is what defiles them.” —Matthew 15:11

“I said, “I will watch my ways and keep my tongue from sin; I will put a muzzle on my mouth while in the presence of the wicked.” —Psalm 39:1

As Webber goes to start his mission, the fishermen that have known him since he was a kid advise him to just ‘motor around’ and not really attempt to brave the sea in that storm. Webber politely says that he will try his best to get out there, knowing it may cost his life. The other men who volunteer to go with him likewise know the mission is tantamount to suicide, but, as one of them says, “Someone has to go out there and save those guys, right? That’s why I signed up!” How amazing that the most heroic things we can do in life so mirror the Word of God!

“Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” —John 15:13

This movie bestows a little known rescue the full screen treatment the story deserves and gives these formerly unsung heroes the widespread recognition which has been too long overdue. While the story alone, when combined with some remarkably realistic special effects combine in order to paint a vivid recreation of that night, it ends up being the fine performances by Pine (Webber) and Affleck (Sybert) which drive the story toward it’s inevitable conclusion. A distracting and over done girl-left-behind subplot and uneven storytelling slow down an otherwise compelling film.

“The Finest Hours” does not embellish this true story beyond credibility, and I suspect this is not what modern audiences have grown accustomed to nor even expect anymore. A nostalgic tribute to a more civilized time, I hope this film is seen by many and that the old fashioned values and manners portrayed remind us that while we live in this world, we don’t need to reflect it.

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” —Romans 12:2

Violence: Moderate to Heavy / Profanity: Mild / Sex/Nudity: Moderate

See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.


Viewer CommentsSend your comments
Positive
Positive—Just went to this movie with my wife, and we both loved it. This is truly an amazing story and movie that I recommend to everyone! Can’t say enough about this movie!
My Ratings: Moral rating: Excellent! / Moviemaking quality: 5
—Mike, age 30 (USA)
Positive—“Finest Hours” is a movie that the whole world needs to see, not just because it is great moviemaking but because it reconnects us to the true meaning in the word courage, and then some. I would not have missed this film for the world, if I had, then I would have missed one of the greatest movies of human endeavour that I have seen, maybe even the greatest. Gosh, this is heart-warming film that I beg all movie goers to see, without fail, it will restore your faith in God, and the human spirit and you will carry the story in your heart for evermore.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Excellent! / Moviemaking quality: 5
—Dave, age 69 (Australia)
Positive—Wonderful movie about courage and doing your duty in spite of dangers. Foul language—typical… Once again Hollywood has left out the miracle of God’s strength and presence in times of trouble, but the movie is worth seeing, just look up the truth after—the truth is better than the fiction…
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 4
—Tina, age 47 (Canada)
Positive—This was the finest hour for all these men who braved this storm and especially the skipper of both the big ship and the little boat that saved them (I said two skippers, well one was the chief mechanic that the men respected him as a skipper). I’ll give credit to the special effects team. That was brilliant CGI. The waves were outstanding. It was courage all over with these men.

I’m glad there was no re-writing of history by putting women on the ship, which never happened. That’s good. I say that because we know how Hollywood wants to put women in men’s roles any chance they get. However, there was one part that I really don’t think happened. A civilian woman goes into the Coast Guard building and storms into the officer’s office demanding him to tell the small Coast Guard ship to turn back to safety. In the real world, no one would have let her have access to an officer’s office. That was Hollywood scripting to put some little feminist part in the movie.

You’ll get your money’s worth on this movie. I always like, in these true stories, showing the photos of the actual people and the end and during the credits. Which they did.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Good / Moviemaking quality: 5
—Robert Garcia, age 68 (USA)
Positive—Very good movie! If you are on Cape Cod, the real CG36500 still exists at Rock Harbor in Orleans. I have seen it many times without realizing what it is. It is a REALLY small boat. Knowing what I seen of the actual boat and knowing that 36 men were stuffed into it to get back to shore makes the movie that much more interesting. I would highly recommend stopping by and seeing it (Rock Harbor is a public pier, so no admission is charged, although I do believe there is a donation station if you want to actually board the boat).
My Ratings: Moral rating: Better than Average / Moviemaking quality: 4
—Pat, age 61 (USA)
Positive—Excellent!! Go see it!!
My Ratings: Moral rating: Better than Average / Moviemaking quality: 5
—Michelle, age 41 (USA)
Positive—By reading your review, I found that the main character, Bernie Webber, was the son of a preacher. Though you point out the times the crew on the SS Pendleton prayed, I was disappointed that neither Webber or Sybert nor anyone else attributed being able to find the ship in the storm and their way back without a compass, to God, but rather to Good Luck.

I am sure the men would be thanking God, plus all the village who saw them come in would be thanking God with tears in their eyes. You say the real Webber said God’s hand was on his shoulder the whole way. That would have been nice to see him say that in the movie. It was an excellent movie and I certainly cried, but it would have been more realistic if people had thanked God. As they say during war, another life and death situation, “There are no atheists in foxholes.”
My Ratings: Moral rating: Excellent! / Moviemaking quality: 4
—Robert Brown, age 60 (USA)
Positive—This has become one of my all-time favorite movies. Not only did I enjoy the true story, but I respected it as well. It is not typical Hollywood. It depicts the US Coastguard and the men that lived the tragedy with honor and dignity. The two main characters, Webber and Sybert (Chris Pine and Casey Affleck), are depicted as humble men, with inner strength, true hero leadership, and deep integrity, rather than being typically macho, worldly, against authority, and swaggering. The men were real, not caricatures, and the acting was simply superb all the way around.

The pacing before the rescue is slow for Hollywood. The first time I watched it, the beginning seemed to drag, to the point that I contemplated turning it off. I’m glad I didn’t. The movie built steadily in momentum, then vaulted into the harrowing rescue, and the peril of the crew aboard the doomed oil tanker, split in half by the storm. The director and editors did an excellent job of maintaining suspense, and causing me to care about the characters. It was a satisfying and emotion ride. I have watched the DVD a few times now, each time with enjoyment.

The only warnings I would make would be a few bad words spoken in the midst of peril, and the brashness of the young woman that Webber was courting. Even though she made me uncomfortable more than once, in her defense, she does have an arc, going from wanting her man safe at all costs, to realizing that dangerous rescues (and his possible death) are part of his job. I recommend this film to teens and up.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Better than Average / Moviemaking quality: 5
—Sheri, age 63 (USA)

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