By Jason Burke
The Finest Hours is an incredibly moving story about honor and courage in the face of impossible odds. Bernie Webber, a coastguard obsessed with doing the right thing, is faced with the tremendous task of taking three additional men into the sea to save the survivors of the SS Pendleton, a ship split in two by the massive storm.
The story jumps around, telling three people’s perspectives that eventually all shift into one situation. The viewer sees the perspectives of Bernie Webber, his fiancee Miriam, and Ray Syrbet, an engineer aboard the Pendleton who tirelessly works to save everyone’s lives.
Bernie’s story is told extremely well, telling about his courage and determination, taking all 34 survivors aboard the ship when their boat’s regulation is 12 people, including their crew. Bernie also takes the impossible odds of getting over “the bar,” a place where all the tides clash together, creating unimaginably dangerous waves, especially in the vicious storm dwelling in the town. He takes the risk of dying within the first ten minutes of his excursion because “they say you have to go out, they don’t say you have to come back in.”
The next story is told from the point of Ray Syrbet, an engineer who’s thrown into a position of great leadership when the Pendleton splits in two. Ray takes the liberty of going against what the other “leaders” of the group want to do. Even taking the extreme risk of cutting the lifeboats from the ship, which immediately get demolished in the intense waves. He also comes up with the brilliant idea to run what’s left of the ship aground to slow the waterflow into the ship, buying them more than the three hours they had to be found in the open ocean. He steers the ship using a broken gerdur and a chain pulley system, along with a long line of men between the deck and the engine room, communicating how many degrees they need to turn and in what direction.
The final story is told from the point of view of Miriam. She has an interesting point of view, telling the story of the emotional distress and pain of being the wife, or in her case the fiancee, of a coastguard risking his life near every day. Miriam is shown in many places of emotion, calling Bernie every ten minutes before he leaves, requesting directly that he be brought back home, and the anger and stress she’s put through when he’s sent “over the bar” to what it seems would be his certain death. Miriam loses control and crashes her car, and is picked up by a stranger whose husband was saved by Bernie in the past.
Overall the story is told extremely well, only denying a small amount of physical possibility when Bernie takes the whole boat under a wave, which should have flipped and capsized the boat in seconds. However, the rest of the film was remarkable, with it’s incredible displays of emotion, physical exhaustion, and the beautiful story of courage in the face of death. Personally, I would recommend seeing this movie, it’s a moving story with very lovable characters, beautiful scenery, and amazing plot progression.