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Dustin Putman

The Finest Hours  (2016)

Reviewed for by Dustin Putman

The Film
2.5 Stars
(Release Date: May 24, 2016) – "The Finest Hours" is a true account of heroism told simply and efficiently. Director Craig Gillespie (2011's "Fright Night") and screenwriters Scott Silver, Paul Tamasy & Eric Johnson (2010's "The Fighter") aren't reinventing the filmic form, and most of the characters are workmanlike in their streamlined development, but the high-stakes story is compellingly mounted. On the night of February 18, 1952, off the coast of Cape Cod, oil tanker SS Pendleton is ripped in half during a violent winter storm. With a second tanker similarly in distress and few resources to go around, Coast Guard crewman Bernie Webber (Chris Pine) is tasked with gathering a four-person team for an urgent rescue mission of the 34 imperiled men onboard.

"The Finest Hours" has been described as old-fashioned in tone and telling, but there is something comfy and charming about its throwback innocence. While there is little hard-hitting about this particular depiction, the narrative is tense and straightforward, throttling Bernie and his crew—Richard Livesey (Ben Foster), Andy Fitzgerald (Kyle Gallner) and Ervin Maske (John Magaro)—with all forms of nasty weather as they take to the alarmingly choppy open seas in hopes of reaching the SS Pendleton before it sinks. Bringing this tale to life are exceptionally convincing visual effects and lush location shooting in Massachusetts courtesy of cinematographer Javier Aguirresarobe (2015's "Goosebumps").

As snowswept as "The Finest Hours" can be at time, it is a curious observation that none of the characters act particularly cold, even as they are constantly wet while zooming through bone-chilling waters. It is the one blip of overt implausibility arising from a heartfelt film that competently whips up thrills. Chris Pine (2014's "Into the Woods") is effective in the somewhat against-type role of the loyal, soft-spoken Bernie Webber, while Holliday Grainger (2015's "Cinderella") is a charismatic natural as strong-willed fiancée Miriam. Casey Affleck (2013's "Out of the Furnace") gives a no-nonsense levity to his turn as fast-thinking tanker engineer Ray Sybert. Taking a page from 2000's Wolfgang Petersen adventure "The Perfect Storm," "The Finest Hours" paints the ocean as a thing of crashing beauty and unapologetic threat, the last place a person would want to be as a squall closes in.

Read Dustin's Theatrical Review

Blu-ray Picture/Sound

"The Finest Hours" gusts onto Blu-ray with a top-tier, blemish-free 1080p transfer. During indoor sequences, characters have a nostalgic golden glow, while exteriors are awash in deep blues, blacks and grays. Image depth is pleasing and organic, while details in facial features, fabrics and backgrounds are superbly textured. This is definitely, without a doubt, the way to see this film—preferably on a nice, big home-theater screen. The 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio is every bit as excellent, enveloping the viewer fully with a lively, robust surround presentation. The crashing waves, blustery winds and creaking metal of the oil tanker share the soundfield with Carter Burwell's elegant music score. Dialogue is consistently clean, clear and evenly modulated, never getting overshadowed by the action.

Blu-ray Features
  • "Against All Odds: The Bernie Webber Story" Featurette (14:10, HD)
  • "Brotherhood" Featurette (1:49, HD)
  • "Two Crews" Featurette (2:02, HD)
  • "What Is Your Finest Hour?" Featurette (1:02, HD)
  • "The Finest Inspiration: The U.S. Coast Guard" Featurette (1:42, HD)
  • Deleted Scenes (4:28, HD)
Bottom Line
"The Finest Hours" came and went in theaters (earning a disappointing $52-million worldwide against an $80-million budget), but this handsomely conceived adventure should garner a more receptive audience on home video. Disney's Blu-ray release is fluffy on bonus content (save for an informative 14-minute documentary on the real-life story), but it wholly delivers with its superb HD picture and lossless audio. Recommended.

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© 2016 by Dustin Putman
Dustin Putman

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