Intense peril and missing mashed potatoes

In Disney’s newest honorable mention, The Finest Hours tells the little-known story of the USS Pendleton, an oil tanker that broke in half during an intense winter storm. Set off the coast of Massachusetts in the Winter of 1952, the movie is rated PG-13.

Craig Gillespie, whose last noteworthy mention was Million Dollar Arm, directs an all-star cast in a tale of bravery that borderlines stupidity. Chris Pine plays the leading man, Bernie Weber, a coxswain for the US Coast Guard in love with the beautiful and tenacious Miriam (Holliday Grainger). After a short courtship, Miriam asks Bernie to marry her. All is well and they are falling deeper in love until the fateful day that a storm comes into town that tests the bounds of who they are as humans.

The storm is a huge winter cell, much like Jonas, the storm we had last week. Weather like that on the high seas causes real problems, especially for ships that are older and not well maintained. Ray Sybert (Casey Affleck) is a young engineer who knows the ship like the back of his hand. When the storm breaks the old ship in two, leaving them separated from the captain, Sybert takes charge and leads the 33 remaining men in an effort to save themselves the best way they can — by relying on their knowledge and strength to stay alive.

Bernie Weber is at the Coast Guard lighthouse when a local fisherman (Matthew Maher) comes in to report that he has seen and heard a ship in distress off the coast near his house. The new Chief Warrant Officer (Eric Bana) sends Weber and a crew of his choosing. The mission is most certainly a death warrant, considering the seas are incredibly dangerous in this weather. Nonetheless, they set off ignoring all good advice and sense and face the incredibly dangerous waves they are sure to run into in a glorified lifeboat.

Perplexing and perilous, the film had almost all the makings of a perfect story. My only point of contention was a missing piece of the narrative. The writers weave the tale together so naturally that they forget to tell the audience what seems to be a key piece of backstory. It may not have been necessary, as Bernie Weber needed no excuse other than his commanding officer ordered him to go. And, in 1952, people may not have questioned such a directive – even though Miriam had a wonderfully tense scene while doing just that. But the story the writers kept hinting about a failed previous mission, and never explained it fully leaving the audience to wonder what happened.

This year, my mother made a wonderful Thanksgiving meal. She made the turkey, the dressing (my favorite part), the corn, the peas, even the can of cranberry sauce…absolutely everything I’m used to having at Thanksgiving, except the mashed potatoes. We had potatoes, but they were baked potato wedges that were in olive oil and sea salt. Good potatoes on any other day, but for Thanksgiving? It was just disappointing. I didn’t say much, because she’d worked so hard, and it’s the South and she is momma, therefore she is never wrong. Wrong or right, I felt I had been filched of my mashed potatoes.

This movie was like that. It had all the working parts of a movie, the love story, the heroism, the wonderful climax, the ‘will they won’t they’ I kept asking myself, the beautiful leading lady, and several handsome seaman for dessert, but it’s missing the mashed potatoes. No one else may miss it, but I did.

Other than that, the movie was great. Well cast was Holliday Grainger, a familiar face as Anastasia in last years’ Cinderella. Chris Pine and Casey Affleck were wonderfully heroic and kept you on the edge of your seat the entire time. The moment I saw what they were actually up against was the best cinematic moment of the night. The cinematographers were the true stars of the show, though. Feats of cinema were conquered with the special effects in the film. The 3D might have been a bit much, because it was only needed at certain points, but where it was added gave it so such depth that it almost made you taste the saltwater spray. It left me feeling such a rush, I left the theater feeling like I needed to run laps to calm down.

It’s a shame that they waited so long to release it, because it puts off Oscar nominations until next year. Disney never fares well at the Oscars or the Globes, but it could have been a contender for voters who weren’t wanting to make this the year of The Revenant, seeing as this was much better.


Rating – 89% (B)



The Finest Hours

2016 - Rated PG-13 - Action/Drama/History - 1 hour, 57 minutes

Director: Craig Gillespie

Cast: Chris Pine, Casey Affleck, Ben Foster, Eric Bana, Holliday Grainger0




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