This time I shall be detailing The Finest Hours minutely, breaking it down for a second and counting on it a moment to see if it’s time wasted or the time of our lives. So read on only if you’ve already seen The Finest Hours, or don’t plan to.
0:00:41 The film opens with a reminder that the film is based on a true story and set in Wellfleet, Massachusetts, November, 1951. The song in the background is Frank Sinatra’s version of ‘Huckle-Buck’. I’d thought good music had already been invented in 1951…
[N.B. I’ve included a playlist of the actual songs used in the film along with the original soundtrack at the end of this synopsis.]
0:01:54 U.S. Coast Guard coxswain Bernard ‘Bernie’ Webber (Chris Pine) and Mel “Gus” Gouthro (Beau Knapp) arrive at a diner for Bernie’s blind date with a girl he’s been talking on the phone with for weeks. This was pre-internet dating – so long ago Tumblr probably still had an ‘e’.
0:05:08 Bernie meets Miriam Pentinen (Holliday Grainger) and it’s love at first sight because this isn’t reality. Bernie learns Miriam’s never been on a boat (despite living on the coast) because she’s afraid of the water at night. WTF!? Does this mean she hasn’t had a chance to go on a boat during daytime?
0:05:24 Chris Pine is doing a wonderful job playing Bernie, the shy New Englander. Of course, I’m easily impressed by anyone who acts in an accent, no matter how bad.
0:08:36 While Bernie asks some old sea dog if he can take his fishing boat out on the harbour to impress Miriam, another chap at the bar (Matthew Maher as Carl Nickerson) references his brother-in-law’s death on Bernie’s watch (Bernie’s in the Coast Guard). Miriam’s fear is beginning to look not so stupid.
0:09:21 We jump ahead to February 17, 1952, at some sort of dance (where they’re dancing to Vayo Con Dios). Miriam proposes to Bernie but he turns her down because a big storm is coming. When he says, ‘No,’ it comes anyway.
[N.B. While the facts of their courtship are more or less accurate, the timing is not. In reality, Bernie and Miriam were wed two years before the events of this film.]
0:15:42 Raymond Sybert (Casey Affleck), Chief Engineer on the T2 oil tanker SS Pendleton, asks the captain to reduce speed so that a weld doesn’t break in the rough seas. The captain refuses because he’s not afraid to rock the boat.
0:17:31 The weld doesn’t hold and water shoots into the boat which will now go down faster than a ex-Disney starlet.
Tchuda Southerland (Josh Stewart affects the sailor’s strong cajun accent) goes to talk to the captain and discovers that the front and back halves of the ship have decided to go their separate ways.
[N.B. The reason for the split is explained in the film by a recent weld breaking, which is false. The reason two T2 tankers broke in half that day (the SS Pendleton and the SS Fort Mercer) is that the steel used to manufacture them was inferior, leading to ships of that make being nicknamed ‘Kaiser’s coffins’.]
0:27:24 There are three sides on the boat:
- Take the lifeboats and abandon ship (D.A. Brown’s (Michael Raymond-James) plan)
- Stay on the ship and wait (Wallace Quirey’s (John Ortiz) plan)
- Run the ship aground; it can’t sink if it’s already on bottom (Sybert’s plan)
- Netflix and chill while they decide (my plan)
[N.B. In reality, Sybert did everything he could to keep the Pendleton off the shoals. It was only when the men on the tanker heard a rescue boat was on its way that they stopped manoeuvring the stern.]
0:28:28 The boys on the Pendleton learn there’s another T2 tanker – the Fort Mercer – that’s split in half, so all of the rescue crews will be sent there, and not to the Pendleton, as no one knows it’s cracked in two. That’s one very divisive storm.
0:31:54 Office-in-charge Warrant Officer Daniel Cluff (Eric Bana) tells Boatswain’s Mate Chief Petty Officer Donald Bangs (Benjamin Koldyke) to go rescue the Fort Mercer. The bos’n disagrees on the method and Cluff caves to his subordinate. It would seem, like the Fort Mercer, that the captain is out of his depth.
0:36:02 Upon hearing some of the men are headed for the lifeboats, Sybert (who needs all of the sailors to steer his handmade tiller) grabs an axe and releases an empty lifeboat that is instantly crushed to bits by the waves against the hull of the ship. Thus, the sailors need a Plan ‘B’: as in ‘B somewhere else’.
[N.B. This event did not take place. There was some discussion on board about taking the lifeboats, but this idea was rejected summarily.]
0:38:56 Thanks to Carl Nickerson, the man who told the coast guard about the boat sinking in his backyard [32:40], Cluff tells Webber to select a crew and take a small CG-36500 boat ‘over the bar’. I have no idea what they mean by this, but no one in the movie wants to do it. As people died the last time Webber confronted it, it’d probably be easier for everyone to stay behind the bar than go over it.
[N.B. Between the Chatham harbour and the open sea lies a ‘bar’, a series of shoals, that are dangerous even in good weather. Bernie must time bursts of his engine to ride each approaching wave before it breaks.
This description is from 51:26, when fisherman John Stello (Alexander Cook) explains the difficulty to Miriam:
The shoals are never in the same place twice. Flood currents carrying them… Big ocean swells that rise up when they hit the shallows crash up against that bar. Outgoing tide crashes up against that bar. That man [Cluff] shouldn’t have sent them out to cross that bar in a storm like this.]
0:39:28 Richard ‘Richie’ Livesey (a bloke who, along with Carl Nickerson, has been a buzz kill since the beginning) reminds Bernie he couldn’t get over the bar the last time there was a storm and eight people died. Sounds like a bad night of bar hopping.
0:39:46 All of the old sailors tell Bernie it’s impossible to make it out of the harbour. He responds with,
In the Coast Guard they say you gotta go out, but they don’t say you gotta come back in.
If Bernie goes overboard, his balls will keep him afloat.
0:40:37 This scene where the old salts try to convince the young sailor not to do his duty in order to save his life is a win for Chris Pine. He’s showing a lot of range between this film and the Star Treks. Not to mention, his name makes me think of wood. #notjusthisname
[N.B. John Stello, fisherman, neighbour and friend, really did tell Webber to get lost rather than try and make it over the bar.]
0:41:57 The Pendleton rescue crew is Bernie, Engineman Third Class Andrew ‘Fitz’ Fitzgerald (Kyle Gallner), Seaman Richard ‘Richie’ Livesey (Ben Foster), and Seaman Ervin Maske (John Magaro). That’s not a lot of seamen for four guys.
[N.B. These lads were the only ones to go because, according to an account Webber wrote afterwards, ‘other crew members had made themselves scarce when they heard that CG-36500 was to be sent.’]
Please tell me we’re taking this boat to a bigger boat.
0:48:32 Miriam arrives at the Coast Guard office to discover Bernie has gone out on a mission. Honestly, I loathe the obligation most films feel to include romance. This is an action/rescue movie, not The Notebook. What’s more, the men in the Coast Guard station seem as loathe to see her as I.
[N.B. And it’s not even part of the ‘true story’. Miriam was never at the station, never at the Nickerson home and never at the shore when her husband arrived. She spent the whole evening with the flu, at home and in bed.]
0:57:34 To combat his fear, Fitz begins singing the song ‘Haul Away Joe‘. The other men surely wish he could sing tenor (ten-or eleven kilometres away), or solo (so-lo they couldn’t hear him).
0:59:28 The director tries to create a lot of suspense as Bernie takes the boat over the bar, as though we didn’t already know they’re going to make it.
1:03:49 The ‘boat going over the bar’ scene is sea porn: Not a lot of intrigue but it’s very wet and looks damn good.
1:08:10 The Pendleton runs aground. Like the romantic storyline of this film, it isn’t going anywhere.
1:10:28 The compass went overboard while they went over the bar, so now the 36500 is as lost as the money Disney invested in this film.
1:16:03 The Pendleton is on a shoal but the weight of the water filling it is dragging out off the sandbar with the tides. The pumps can’t pump enough water out and if the boat drifts off the shoal, everyone on the boat will have a sinking feeling.
1:24:22 Bernie and crew find the Pendleton, and the sailors scamper down the Jacob’s ladder so quickly, they fall into the sea when the ship shifts. Despite this, no one dies, proving that the 1950’s were safer times.
1:28:02 The big guy named George ‘Tiny’ Myers (Abraham Benrubi) dies when he falls into the water and is crushed between the rescue boat and the tanker. But the good news is, after he dies, the waves ease, the storm ceases and even the men stop doing anything except for taking a moment of silence to observe all the WTF!?
[N.B. This is accurate. Of the 41 of sailors aboard the SS Pendleton, 8 died when the front half separated and sank, while only one of the 33-man crew at the back half died. That hapless victim was indeed the ship’s cook: George ‘Tiny’ Myers, who was the last man to leave the ship and was killed when he fell off the ladder and became pinched between the 36500 and the Pendleton.]
We all live or we all die.
Bernie says that even though their rescue ship is getting crowded, he’s going to save all the seamen, which may be hard to swallow.
1:38:08 Cluff at the Coast Guard station orders Bernie to go out to sea and drop the men off on a bigger boat, which actually sounds like a solid plan to me, but Bernie refuses, not knowing that the lights on shore have gone out, which he’s counting on because he doesn’t have a compass. Bernie was already dim enough at the outset…what will happen to him now?
1:42:58 WTF!? It took the people on the shore this long to figure out maybe they should turn on their headlights when there are no lights anywhere else to help guide the sailors in? Times are desperate when I’m the smartest sailor on the poop deck.
[N.B. This ridiculous scene never took place, of course. The real Bernie Webber spotted a red, flashing light atop a buoy marking the entrance to the Old Harbor, Chatham.]
1:47:44 After they arrive safely, everyone on shore clears the dock to avoid watching Richie, who’s hated Bernie throughout the film, smile in approval at his nemesis. Even that’s more palatable, however, than watching Bernie and Miriam kiss like jellyfish mating.
[N.B. This scene, is excrutiangly melodramatic, especially when considering that, while many of the town-folk met the rescue boat at the dock, Webber did not see Miriam until many days later!
Coxswain Webber saw his friend and fisherman John Stello once again and inquired about what the sick Miriam Webber had said when she learned of the CG3-6500’s return? Stello replied that he had told Webber’s wife Miriam that Webber was a hero, but she was too ill to comprehend. Webber would not make it home for several days even though he lived just five minutes from the station.
1:49:09 Roll credits with cards of the aftermath compared to the real-life photos. The song is ‘Haul Away, Joe’ (performed by Kodaline), also the song they sang on the boat heading out [57:34].
[This website has some nice side-by-side shots of actors and the real people.]
- WTF!?’s: 3 wet ones
- When to Follow: After waiting for this to come out on Netflix, it’s a film you might watch with the family – if you’ve seen every other recent Disney production.
- Where’s This Found: The sea scenes are well-filmed but The Finest Hours suffers from its insistence on focusing on the romance, which breaks up the action unnecessarily and draws the film out longer than it needs to be. Out of a possible 10, I have 6 F’s to give.
- What To Feedback: I bet none of my esteemed readers can name one single action film where a romance actually made the film better. If you’re up to this challenge, leave a comment with the film that proves me wrong!
Left Over WTF (Way Too Funny) Photos
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WTF!? do you meme?
What to Follow Up
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