Two oil tankers split in half during a terrible storm off the coast of Massachusetts on February 18, 1952, and by the time the second ship is discovered, there’s only one crew available who’s brave enough to go after them. The movie based off of this daring Coast Guard rescue sounds like it should be plenty suspenseful, but Craig Gillespie’s The Finest Hours didn’t have any of those seat-gripping moments. It was a fine movie with some great acting by Chris Pine, Casey Affleck, and Holliday Grainger, and it was a brilliant idea releasing it on DVD right before Memorial Day weekend. Unfortunately, being a product of Disney meant that this movie had to have a happy ending.
Not that this tale didn’t deserve a happy ending! Bernard Webber (Pine), Andrew “Fitz” Fitzgerald (Kyle Gallner), Richard Livesey (Ben Foster), and Ervin Maske (John Magaro) risked their lives to save the 33 men trapped on the stern of the SS Pendleton. The nor’easter that managed to split both the Pendleton and SS Fort Mercer in two produced waves up to 60-feet tall and winds as fast as 70-knots and the four young men tackled these conditions in a 36-foot wooden motorized lifeboat. Even though they were alone in this rescue attempt, Boston and Nantucket Coast Guards had been dispatched to help Fort Mercer since it had been the only ship able to send out an SOS—they managed to save all but one who had survived the initial splitting of the boat (the Captain and seven other crew members went down with the bow of the ship).
Environmentally speaking, though, that storm could have claimed a lot more lives than it did. The actors themselves had trouble staying warm, and they were in a fake storm. A real nor’easter, a macro-scale cyclone that usually occurs along the East Coast of North America, can cause over a billion dollars worth in damages. Probably the worst nor’easter was that of the Great Blizzard of 1888, which killed 400 people after dropping over 40 inches of snow on New York. While advances in technology and weather prediction have definitely made an impact in protecting people from inclement weather, the nor’easter of January 2016 forced 12 states to declare a State of Emergency and killed 55 people.
That’s some pretty intense stuff to fit into a PG-13 movie. Disney makes a valiant effort but falls just a tad short of truly capturing the desperation. I’m not sure why this is—the movie follows the actual story pretty closely, and even throws in a few creative liberties to create some added scenes of suspense, but my best guess would simply be that it’s a Disney film. While they do a great job of pulling on our emotions by killing off the main character’s parents, they seem to be missing something when they have the majority of the characters survive. Still, it’s not a bad movie and could be worth a watch if you’re interested in storms and daring rescues.
Featured image courtesy of Disney.