Rescue at sea

Billed as perhaps the most daring rescue in US Coast Guard history and immortalized in the Casey Sherman/ Michael J. Tougias non-fiction best-seller, The Finest Hours comes to the screen under the steady hand of director Craig Gillespie.

During a ferocious winter storm off Cape Cod in 1952, two oil tankers – the SS Fort Mercer and the SS Pendleton – were lost at sea. The Fort Mercer essentially sank outright, but the Pendleton was snapped in half – one half (carrying the captain and officers) sinking in moments, the other (carrying much of the engineering team) managing to precariously stay afloat in the remote chance that help will arrive.

It’s giving nothing away to say that help does arrive, in the form of a small Coast Guard boat piloted by Bernie Webber (Chris Pine). With most Coast Guard boats rushing, as best they could, toward the Mercer, Webber’s single boat was the Pendleton’s best hope, to say nothing of the only one.

Unabashedly old-fashioned and even hokey at times, The Finest Hours is still engrossing, sometimes rousing, entertainment. The CGI effects are vividly rendered – those prone to seasickness or motion sickness may want to avoid the 3-D version – and the story told in sincere, simple terms. It’s a fitting tribute.

The cast is likewise earnest and effective, including Ben Foster, Eric Bana, John Ortiz, Graham McTavish, Kyle Gallner, Josh Stewart and Casey Affleck, the latter particularly good as Ray Sybert, the Pendleton seaman who unexpectedly finds himself in charge and unexpectedly finds his own heroism along the way.

Holliday Grainger plays Bernie’s newly minted fiancée, worriedly waiting out the storm. Aside from giving Pine a love interest, and a way to include a major female character into a predominantly male storyline, Grainger’s scenes tend to interrupt the story’s momentum, through no fault of her own. !