What happens when Disney decide to do a disaster movie? We get some decent effects and a distinct lack of injury that’s what! However The Finest Hours is a proud and stout film that goes for the feels where possible and is worth a watch.
Run Time: 117 minutes
Based on a true story from 1952, two oil tankers are destroyed in a huge storm. The coast guard go off on what seems like a suicide mission to find any survivors and this charts their attempt.
The Disasters Faced
A giant storm, tidal waves, oil tanker collisions, snow, ice, bad driving, losing that damn fur coat, idiotic management whom clearly have no clue and some serious drowning and hypothermia.
Being a Disney film trying to sell a daredevil rescue attempt, The Finest Hours treads an interesting line. It splits its focus between the oil tankers in danger, the coast guard rescue – whom get the main screen time – and the ladies on the shoreline whom try to evoke all the dramatic tension in the world by half getting in the way and half meddling for the better. As a result, it comes across two part manly, one part mellow-drama and sometimes that leaves you a bit confused. Add to that the fact the film is in darkovision because its at night and at sea, sometimes characters start to bleed into each other and it can be a bit confusing. If anything, the oil tankers are given the least amount of screen time and have the most amount of problems. They also have the most likeable characters and so the film feels slightly imbalanced. However what’s here is good. The disaster kicks off very early and whilst some of the narrative in the middle section made it bog down in places, there is plenty going on to keep you entertained when the actual rescue attempt hits the critical point.
The storm itself and the oil tankers accident is superbly done. A few of the shots I was genuinely wowed by. Also props to the set design as water floods in and the oil tankers fall apart. In general water effects are very difficult to get right but for the majority of the film, they feel fluid and alive – raging into the boat and causing havoc.
Why It’s Worth Watching
Based on what was deemed one of the most courageous sea rescues of all time, there’s a real sense of enjoyment watching the film through to its conclusion. No one is dislikable in spite of some efforts (stop shouting “call them in” woman!) and it is beautiful to look at. Whilst some of the mellow drama could have been reduced in places, it’s not completely hammed up and there is a level of calm throughout as no one gets truly hysterical. It’s well acted, well scripted and although there’s a bit of a bulge in the middle because it insists on circling around the three stories quite often, it doesn’t outstay its welcome by much.
Every time someone insists that the boat the coast guard have taken is too small and just assumes they have all died. If you are someone that likes dark humour, there’s a mildly hidden charm in how no one seems to think they’ll make it through the night!
Abaraham Benrubi as the chef George is great. He doesn’t get much screen time but I’d happily eat whatever he is cooking as their oil tanker is sinking away beneath him!
The film is played entirely straight faced which is completely the right thing to do here but one thing about the rescue stood out for me (aside from the fact everyone has dry clothes at the end) – the film seems to state everything is pure luck. The coast guards out at sea had lost their compass and had had an awful time but took great skill to just survive and point in the right vague direction. When they come across the survivors it’s so by accident it makes it feel like the coast guard team were just blind lucky which felt a bit unfair.
The boat used in the rescue is still operation today, as of 2016 and saves lives even now. Wowzer!
Certainly not essential, and not without a bit of an identity crisis – but its opening and closing quarters are fantastic pieces of cinema and it’s a pleasant addition to the disaster movie genre with dare I say it – a largely feel good ending for all.