Reviewed by: Raphael Vera
bravery / courage / self-sacrifice
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 Pine … Bernie Webber (Bernard C. Webber)
Holliday Grainger … Miriam Penttinen
Casey Affleck … Ray Sybert
Ben Foster … Seaman Richard P. Livesey
Kyle Gallner … Petty Officer 3rd Class Andrew J. Fitzgerald
John Magaro … Seaman Ervin E. Maske
Eric Bana … Chief Daniel Cluff
Rachel Brosnahan … Bea Hansen
Graham McTavish … Frank Fauteux
Abraham Benrubi … Cook George D. “Tiny” Myers
Josh Stewart … Tchuda Southerland
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|Director:||Craig Gillespie—“Million Dollar Arm” (2014), “Fright Night” (2011), “Lars and the Real Girl” (2007), “Mr. Woodcock” (2007)|
|Producer:||Walt Disney Pictures
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|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.
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”).
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.
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.
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
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.