Saturday, January 30, 2016

The Finest Hours

Okay, I admit it, as an aging Trekker, I am a great fan of Chris Pine.  He makes a wonderful Captain Kirk on the JJ Abrams Enterprise. His Kirk is brash, buoyant, cocky, and always heroic...just what you want in your starship captain. I've seen him play similar characters in most of his films. But today, for the first time, I saw his range as an actor. He plays Boatswain's Mate Bernard Webber, a quiet man uneasy at voicing his thoughts.  In the first scene of the movie, he is stalling outside a diner where he is to meet a young woman with whom he's been communicating via telephone for a few weeks. He is shy, diffident, and unsure of himself. At their first meeting he is charmingly awkward with her, stumbling for what to say. As the story progresses, she proposes marriage to him...

I've seen the previews for The Finest Hours for several weeks.  It looked intriguing, so I decided today I'd go see 3D.

I'm still not ready to take on the new Star Wars and watch one of my favorite characters die...later, I'll do that later.

Back to The Finest Hours...the story is aptly named.  This is a true story of the U S Coast Guard and remains the most successful small boat rescue in their history to this day.

There is a terrible winter storm on land and a gale at sea, creating huge waves and navigational nightmares.

Two oil tankers are caught out in the maelstrom, miles apart.  First one breaks up and then the other.  The second tanker's radio is not functioning so they cannot broadcast their plight. (It went down with the bow section of the vessel.)

Meanwhile at the Coast Guard Station on the coast, they pick up radar blips of the first one and see the second one, but think it's an echo or anomaly because there is no radio confirmation.

The Station Commander, well played by the talented Eric Bana, with a broad Texas accent, which really alienates his New Englander crewmen, decides to send out their remaining rescue boat when a plane dispatched finds the floating stern of the second tanker.

Meanwhile the film's action switches back and forth from the Coast Guard and the tanker where the men try valiantly to stay afloat and alive. Michael Raymond James plays a crewman determined to lower the lifeboats into the wildly churning sea. He argues with his superior played by Casey Affleck (as Ray Sybert) in his best performance to date. Finally Sybert takes an ax and cuts the lifeboat loose.  The waves smash it against the hull of the ship splintering it into matchsticks. The crew is not yet convinced but follow Sybert's lead. There is no other way off the ship. They know they cannot survive afloat in the huge waves of frigid water.

I kept trying to remember where I had seen Michael Raymond James before.  I could remember his face but he looked different in this role.  Finally when I got home I googled the cast list and realized he played Rene, the serial killer, on the first season of True Blood...How could I have forgotten that?!!

Meanwhile, Bernie and his small crew start out to sea.  The hardest part for them will be to make it over the shoals in the churning water.  There are harrowing scenes where the small boat (think an elongated ski boat) literally travels under the water until it surfaces in the waves. Some of the waves encountered on the shoals reminded me of the pipeline off the north shore of Oahu, or to give it a cinematic reference, the big one in The Perfect Storm.

Since I wrote earlier it is still considered the most successful small boat rescue ever, you can imagine what happens.  But seeing it is amazing.  These men were brave even though most of them on the tanker and the rescue craft did not think they had a chance of success. The climax of the film is especially moving when they sail into port, guided by unusual means, and find the citizens of the town braving a blizzard in the cold dark of the night to welcome everyone ashore, with blankets, coffee, and hot food.

Other cast members were memorable, particularly Graham McTavish, known to us Outlander fans as Dugald McKenzie on the romantic series.  He played Frank Fauteux, a chief aboard the tanker, and the true leader of the men.

In the role of Miriam, Bernie's girlfriend and soon to be wife, was Holliday Grainger.  She plays a strong woman of her day (early 1950s) determined to be a part of saving the love of her life.

The film is beautifully made and historically accurate for the most part to 1951-1952.  Ms. Grainger looks like the "girl-next-door" or at least the way one would be portrayed in the films of that era. The location shots are memorable.  The effects of the snowstorm unforgettable, especially in 3D. I was cold just sitting in the theater watching it...remember I'm a warm weather girl, no snow for me, thankyouverymuch.

But I have to admit the 3D aspects delighted me.  It was like being in the snowstorm as the flakes floated by your field of vision...I also saw previews to Tim Burton's sequel to Alice in Wonderland, World of Warcraft, and Disney's new version of The Jungle Book, all in 3D.

The Finest Hours is a true story of heroes who risk their lives on a regular basis to save those endangered off our coast.

It is an excellent film.  The special effects, particularly those at sea, are amazing.  I don't think I'll ever forget how the floating stern of the doomed ship looked.

Check out this great movie.  You may be craving a big cup of hot coffee or hot chocolate when it is over, but what's wrong with that?

Until next time...

Image result for the finest hours

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