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The Finest Hours: Blu-ray + Digital HD Review

The Finest Hours (2016) movie poster The Finest Hours

Theatrical Release: January 29, 2016 / Running Time: 108 Minutes / Rating: PG-13

Director: Craig Gillespie / Writers: Scott Silver, Paul Tamasy, Eric Johnson (screenplay); Casey Sherman, Michael J. Tougias (book)

Cast: Chris Pine (Bernie Webber), Casey Affleck (Raymond Sybert), Ben Foster (Richard Livesey), Eric Bana (Daniel Cluff), Holliday Grainger (Miriam Pentinen), John Ortiz (Wallace Quirey), Kyle Gallner (Andy Fitzgerald), John Magaro (Ervin Maske), Graham McTavish (Frank Fauteux), Michael Raymond-James (D.A. Brown), Beau Knapp (Mel Gouthro), Josh Stewart (Tchuda Southerland), Abraham Benrubi (George "Tiny" Myers), Keiynan Lonsdale (Eldon Hanah), Rachel Brosnahan (Bea Hansen), Ben Koldyke (Donald Bangs), Matthew Maher (Carl Nickerson)

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Has Disney all but retired the Touchstone Pictures label? The Finest Hours makes it seem so. In the past, this PG-13 drama about a daring true sea rescue would have been an obvious Touchstone release. But the acquisitions of Marvel and Lucasfilm have given the company an extremely potent live-action slate
to complement the continued and robust success of Pixar and Disney's animation divisions. With Disney-branded live-action cinema continuing to trickle out in the form of middling true sports dramas and suddenly marquee live-action remakes of animated classics, is there any need for the banner that in recent years has been reserved for the productions of the Mouse's soon-expiring distribution deal with Steven Spielberg's DreamWorks Pictures? Probably not. And few will probably notice or lament the loss of Touchstone, with its lightning logo and occasionally distinguished adult-oriented films.

Finest Hours does avoid the signature Disney font in favor of the phrase "Disney Presents", which seems to be a distinction. But you're really grasping at straws if you're looking for some way of distinguishing this January release whose reviews and $28 million domestic and $52 M worldwide grosses are the very definition of mediocrity.

Adapted from Michael J. Tougias and Casey Sherman's bestselling 2009 book by the trio of screenwriters who penned the foundation of David O. Russell's The Fighter, Finest Hours tells the story of oil tankers needing rescue off the coast of New England during a 1952 nor'easter.

In "The Finest Hours", U.S. Coast Guard officer Bernie Webber (Chris Pine) leads a rescue mission during a 1952 New England nor'easter.

The film tries to reel us in with some corny human interest material. In November 1951, U.S. Coast Guard officer Bernie Webber (Chris Pine) is nervous to meet Miriam (Holliday Grainger), a young woman he's been talking to over the phone for weeks. Three months later, she proposes to him. Any thinking viewer will realize these scenes are written strictly to introduce some meaningful stakes to the rescue to come. This is the only glimpse we get at the personal lives of any of these characters, but it gives us a female leading character and a civilian to whom we are supposed to relate.

On the day that Bernie is to ask his supervising officer Cluff (Eric Bana, with a Texas-Australian accent so confounding the film has to address it) for permission to marry, two oil tankers run into trouble. Cluff sends Bernie and three others out to try to rescue the men aboard the Pendleton, a tanker that has cracked at its hull.
The Pendleton's soft-spoken captain Ray Sybert (Casey Affleck) tells his men, to some disagreement, that the ship's best chance is to run aground. Even so, they've got just hours to stay afloat with water coming in and power going out.

We jump between the Coast Guard boat, whose big hurdle is getting over the Chatham Bar (is this really the time to be getting drinks?!), and the Pendleton, with the occasional look at a very concerned Miriam in between. Watching a small ship get tossed around by large CGI waves grows tiresome in a hurry. And apart from that contrived love story and a hint of the wounds lingering from a recent failed rescue mission, there is nothing for us to identify with either these imperiled men or their brave rescuers.

Miriam (Holliday Grainger) awaits news with concern for her endangered fiancι.

Finest Hours is basically a mid-century The Perfect Storm with a Jerry Bruckheimer production feel, but not look, to it. It's the kind of movie you feel obligated to like, but not one which earns or rewards those feelings. It's not smart or funny or truly suspenseful or exciting. Sure, there are a few dozen lives in danger, but only one of those has been given any meaning and even that is limited to a romance that is not easy to buy into as intended.

The Finest Hours is now available in separate Blu-ray and DVD editions, the former of which is reviewed here. Despite 3D theatrical exhibitions, Disney hasn't bothered to treat the film to a Blu-ray 3D release, reserving that format for the biggest blockbusters only (and not even Star Wars: The Force Awakens).

The Finest Hours: Blu-ray + Digital HD cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com Blu-ray Disc Details

2.40:1 Widescreen
7.1 DTS-HD MA (English), Dolby Digital 5.1 (French, Spanish), Dolby Surround 2.0 (Descriptive Video Service)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, French, Spanish
Not Closed Captioned; Extras Subtitled
Release Date: May 24, 2016
Suggested Retail Price: $39.99
Single-sided, dual-layered disc (BD-50)
Blue Keepcase with Side Snap in Cardboard Slipcover
Also available on DVD ($29.99 SRP) and on Amazon Instant Video

VIDEO and AUDIO

As mentioned above, The Finest Hours kind of feels like a Jerry Bruckheimer movie, but it doesn't look like one without the signature stylized palette. The Blu-ray's 2.40:1 presentation does seem to be lacking in black levels, with nothing darker than a medium gray, which is kind of odd. But the picture is sharp and the element clean, of course. The default 7.1 DTS-HD master audio soundtrack is full of stormy sea sounds, which may serve to distract your attention away from the lack of meaningful dialogue and character development.

Take a look at me now! The real Bernie Webber is pictured in "Against All Odds." Richard (Ben Foster) tells the rest of the rescue party how Bernie and Miriam met in this deleted fishing boat scene.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

The all-HD extras begin with "Against All Odds: The Bernie Webber Story" (14:10), a featurette that tells Bernie's story via interviews of his relatives, the authors, and Chatham residents who grew up knowing of his heroism.

Next up come two deleted scenes (4:28) presented with neither intros nor commentary. They show us the crew of the Pendleton trying to maximize the tanker's lifeline (with lots of unfinished visual effects) and a scene in which Ben Foster's character reveals to the other two about how Bernie met Miriam.

The real U.S. Coast Guard is celebrated in a couple of promotional shorts. Bernie looks through binoculars in the snowy lighthouse scene of The Finest Hours Blu-ray's unusual (in a good way) main menu.

Promotional shorts that were probably released online follow. "Brotherhood" (1:49) collects comments from the four actors playing the rescue party about their close collaboration.
"Two Crews" (2:02) describes the movie's two primary layers. "What is Your Finest Hour?" (1:02) has real Coast Guard officers recall their finest hours. Finally, "The Finest Inspiration: The U.S. Coast Guard" (1:42) pays further notice to real Coast Guard officers.

The disc opens with a new Disney Movies Anywhere promo plus trailers for Finding Dory and Zootopia. The menu's Sneak Peeks listing plays that 6-year-old Disney Movie Rewards spot and the trailers, skipping the brand-enforcing Disney Movies Anywhere spot.

The menu gives us a view of Bernie using his binoculars out in the snow by the lighthouse. As always, this Disney Blu-ray does not resume playback or support bookmarks, but it does remember where you left off in the film if you didn't finish it.

The plain blue disc is held in a side-snapped blue keepcase, which is topped by an embossed slipcover. One insert supplies a digital HD/Disney Movie Rewards code, while the other promotes the Disney Movie Club.

Raymond Sybert (Casey Affleck), the soft-spoken captain of the SS Pendleton, has plans to extend the oil tanker's life as long as possible.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

The Finest Hours is a January movie. Not the kind of January movie that is hammered by critics or well-attended by the public in spite of that. The kind of January movie that you forget by year's end and practically by movie's end. It has no awards ambitions or lasting value. It's not bad enough to bemoan as a bad movie, but it certainly isn't good enough to recommend on any level. Without mediocre movies like this, we wouldn't be able to appreciate the really great ones or the really bad ones for that matter.

Disney's Blu-ray release offers a fine feature presentation and ho-hum extras. But it's really a one-time viewing that few will enjoy enough to wade through the bonus features.

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Related Reviews:
Chris Pine: Unstoppable • People Like Us • Into the Woods • Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit • The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement
Casey Affleck: Interstellar • Gone Baby Gone • Ocean's Thirteen | Ben Foster: Lone Survivor • The Mechanic • Kill Your Darlings
Holliday Grainger: Bonnie & Clyde • Cinderella (2015) | Eric Bana: The Other Boleyn Girl • Funny People | John Magaro: The Big Short
Directed by Craig Gillespie: Million Dollar Arm • Fright Night (2011)
Written by Scott Silver, Paul Tamasy & Eric Johnson: The Fighter | Written by Paul Tamasy: Air Bud • Air Bud: Golden Receiver
Titanic • The Guardian • McFarland, USA • Bridge of Spies • Captain Phillips • Everest • The 33

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Reviewed May 27, 2016.



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