‘The Finest Hours’: An Almost-Perfect Storm

The Finest Hours Premiere

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BOSTON, MA - JANUARY 28: The Walt Disney Studios hosted a special 3D IMAX Screening of the Finest Hours for the US Coast Guard and local family, friends and supporters of the movie which was filmed in Quincy MA. Chris Pine accepts an award from the US Coast Guard at the screening of THE FINEST HOURS on January 28, 2016 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Paul Marotta/Getty Images for Allied Integrated Marketing)

O.K,. let’s start off with a little disclaimer: I am a sucker for films that take place at sea. “Horatio Hornblower?” Yep. “Master & Commander?” Errol Flynn swashbuckling? “ In Which We Serve?” Yep, yep and more yeps. Toss in my love of New England lore, and add a wee fact that I recently assisted the good folks of Chatham with the amazing task of bringing back their downtown theater, The Orpheum, then you’ll know why “The Finest Hours” is right up my alley.

For anyone who is a “wash ashore” or lives in some weird cocoon, this a film based on a real story that took place off the coast of Chatham in 1952. What ensued has been called the greatest sea rescue in the Coast Guard’s history. Now it is a movie being released today starring Chris Pine and Casey Affleck.

In the film, a tanker breaks in two during a particularly nasty nor’easter. Facing daunting odds, the crew manages to keep what is left of the ship afloat, while an underpowered, small rescue boat heads out from the Chatham Coast Guard station to save them. Knowing the film was produced by Disney, the outcome is preordained. But that’s not why we want to see the film. We buy our tickets to see people, based on real people, do heroic things in amazingly difficult circumstances.

I asked Casey Sherman, one of the authors of the book upon which the film is based, to explain why the story resonates.
The real-life people, he said, “were part of The Greatest Generation – humble heroes who relied on faith in each other and their faith in God.” In essence these were simple, strong, committed men. Men who are missed in today’s world of cynicism, greed and self-aggrandizing. To quote a certain football coach, “They did their job.”

Chris Pine plays real-life Coast Guard hero Bernie Webber in 'The Finest Hours'

Chris Pine plays real-life hero Bernie Webber in ‘The Finest Hours’

Kevin McLain is the general manager of the renascent Chatham Orpheum, which will host the film and a Q&A with author Sherman Saturday.
“This is a community story,” he said, “When it happened, the town was meeting at the Orpheum. It was from there that they got in their cars, drove to the sea, and turned on their headlights as a beacon to bring everyone home. That is small town New England at its best.”

Some critics have said some unkind words about the film. The love interest seems forced. The accents are distracting. (See Seth Meyers ‘Boston Accent’ on YouTube). The action sequences fail to inspire or be immersive. Some of this is legitimate. But at its core are two men Ray Sybert (Affleck) and Bernie Webber (Pine). Each of these men face something they could have run from. Instead they rise above it to save lives. That is what good men do. “The Finest Hours” is a story about good men, and while it may not be the best film, like the men, it is good.

Casey Sherman told me, that “Bernie Webber said he was a good skipper, but not that good. He believed something else was at the helm of that little boat that night.” That ‘something’ is the core of “The Finest Hours.”

– By Garen Daly
Garen Daly, is the director of the up coming 41st Boston Science Fiction Film Festival & Marathon. Feb 5-15 at the Somerville Theatre.

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