Susan Granger’s review of “The Finest Hours” (Walt Disney Pictures)
Set in 1952, this fact-based rescue-adventure story chronicles the treacherous Coast Guard mission to save the crew of an oil tanker that split apart during a ferocious storm off the coast of Cape Cod, Massachusetts.
In an extended prologue, shy Coast Guard captain Bernie Webber (Chris Pine) and his buddy Gus (Beau Knapp) go on a soda shop double-date. That’s where he meets Miriam (Holliday Grainger), the spunky telephone switchboard operator who becomes his fiancée after she asks him to marry her.
When a massive nor’ester hits the New England coast, a T-2 oil tanker, the SS Pendleton, bound for Boston, cracks in two, leaving more than 30 men eerily stranded on its sinking stern. As senior officer, first assistant engineer Ray Sybert (Casey Affleck) immediately takes charge of the bickering crew.
Meanwhile, at the Coast Guard station, Warrant Officer Daniel Cluff (Eric Bana) orders Webber and his crew to traverse the notoriously perilous Chatham shoal to rescue the survivors in a motorized, 36-foot wooden boat, facing frigid temperatures, monstrous waves, hurricane-force winds, poor visibility and, eventually, a lost compass.
Based on Michael J. Tougias and Casey Sherman’s 2009 non-fiction book, it’s confusingly scripted by Scott Silver, Paul Tamasy & Eric Johnson and formulaically directed by Craig Gillespie (“Lars and the Real Girl,” “Million Dollar Arm”) with Ben Foster and Kyle Gallner lending strong support.
While the authenticity and comprehensibility of the actors’ accents waver, the CGI is impressive, if not immersive. Earnest, resourceful Webber and his crew emerge as true heroes, their understated bravery emphasized by Carter Burwell’s intrusively hokey score.
FYI: Hastily constructed of inferior metal during World War II, T-2 tankers were known as “serial sinkers,” since they often snapped in half during cold weather.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “The Finest Hours” storms in with a sturdy, seaworthy 6, another old-fashioned profile of courage.