By Mark Saldana
Rating: 2.5 (Out of 4 Stars)
The Pendleton rescue by the United States Coast Guard is considered the most impressive and gutsy rescue mission ever attempted by that branch of the military. Despite treacherous conditions and incredible odds, the Guard dispatched a small crew in a small boat to rescue any survivors of the SS Pendleton, an oil tanker split in half by a tremendous storm off the New England Coast. This mission is considered some of the finest hours of work by a unit of the U.S. Coast Guard. As for the near two hours of the film adaptation, I’d say the title doesn’t quite fit.
In 1952, off the Cape Cod coast, Boatswains Mate First Class Bernard Webber (Chris Pine) leads a small crew of men including Seaman Richard Livesey (Ben Foster), Engineman Third Class Andrew Fitzgerald (Kyle Gallner), and Seaman Ervin Maske (John Magaro) to rescue the surviving members of the crew of the SS Pendleton. Considered to be a suicide mission, Webber remains undaunted by any naysayers and follows through with his orders as he attempts to navigate the treacherous waters of the ocean and locate the troubled ship. While Webber and his crew set out on their mission, the Pendleton’s crew work feverishly under the leadership of Ray Siebert (Casey Affleck) to stay afloat as long as they possibly can.
Based on the book The Finest Hours:The True Story of the U.S. Coast Guard’s Most Daring Sea Rescue by Michael J. Tougias and Casey Sherman, screenwriters Scott Silver, Paul Tamasy, Eric Johnson, and director Craig Gillespie have taken a truly amazing miracle of a story and turned it into a cliche riddled, mediocre film. Not only does the film suffer from annoying character cliches, but the story is plagued with this problem as well. These cliches really do take away from the overall experience and makes it difficult to take the film seriously in moments.
To be fair, my overall rating is obviously not horrendous, because the movie does have some redeeming qualities. First off, Gillespie and his talented crew have created some amazing looking sea sequences that will leave audiences awe struck and tense in their seats. Two particular sequences come to mind and I have to hand it to the effects team and editor Tatiana Riegel for doing spectacular work. The other positive aspect of the movie has to do with the exceptional cast who all perform their best despite the flawed writing.
Chris Pine has already proven himself as a strong and confident leading man. Here he plays a character that is the total opposite of Captain James T. Kirk. Bernie Webber is written and portrayed as a shy and humble young man who is often unsure of himself. Still, his natural charisma helps keep the audience invested in his character here. The film also features a lovely performance by Holliday Grainger who stars as Webber’s love interest Miriam. The lovely Grainger is not only easy on the eyes, but the talented actress has a highly lovable charm and the chops to pull off a character who defies the more subservient conventions of women during the 1950s. The movie also offers solid work by Casey Affleck, Ben Foster, Kyle Gllner, John Magaro, Eric Bana, Rachel Brosnahan, Michael Raymond James, and John Ortiz
So it is with much reluctance that I recommend watching this movie. Rather, it is with some strong reservations that I recommend this film for at least a one time viewing. I cannot honestly encourage people to see the film theatrically, but renting the Blu-Ray is something I can recommend. The effects, editing, and action sequences can still be appreciated in a respectable home theater setting. However, paying top dollar to see this movie in a theater just isn’t necessary. There are finer films out there that deserve the box office returns more than this one.