In this image released by Disney shows Casey Affleck in a scene from,

Claire Folger

In this image released by Disney shows Casey Affleck in a scene from, "The Finest Hours," a heroic action-thriller based on the true story of the most daring rescue in the history of the Coast Guard. (Claire Folger/Disney via AP)

'The Finest Hours' tells sea story about doing the right thing

By Shirrel Rhoades
Movie Reviewer

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Think of “The Finest Hours” as “The Perfect Storm” meets “The Poseidon Adventure.” Two ships break up during a storm, and a dauntless Coast Guard team sets out on a rescue mission. Or as one of the Coastie’s girlfriends calls it, “A suicide mission.”

The film’s title pretty well sums up this act of heroism.

This Disney movie is based on a same-named book about a real-life situation in 1952 off Cape Cod, Mass. No spoiler alert, this being about a historic event. It’s the edge-of-the-seat telling that will enthrall you, not plot turns.

During a severe nor’easter, two oil tankers, SS Fort Mercer and SS Pendleton, broke in half. The Fort Mercer got off a call for help, but the Pendleton couldn’t. The second distressed ship accidentally was discovered by shore radar being used by the Coast Guard’s lifeboat station at Chatham, Mass., as its crew searched for the Fort Mercer.

Petty Officer 1st Class Bernard C. Webber volunteered to take his 36-foot motor lifeboat on this nigh-impossible rescue mission. He and his three-man crew fought 60-foot waves and hurricane-force winds but still managed to pull up under the Pendleton’s broken-off stern and offloaded 33 stranded seamen.

Coast Guard vessels and aircraft rescued another 29 from the sinking Fort Mercer. Only five lives were lost among the tankers’ crews.

Webber and his men were awarded the Gold Lifesaving Medal for their heroism.

Chris Pine (you remember him from the new “Star Trek” blockbusters) takes on the role of Webber. Casey Affleck (Ben’s brother), Ben Foster, and Eric Bana are other recognizable faces. Holliday Grainger plays the concerned girlfriend.

Bernie Webber passed away in 2009, so Pine didn’t get to meet the man he portrays. But he listened to several recorded interviews.

“For him, this was his job,” Pine said. “This was what he was supposed to do, and just like anyone clocking in for a job, his task was going out and saving people, and a real sense that there was no glory in it for him or any need for self-aggrandizement. It was just very simple.”

Pine added: “This is almost like a studio film from the ‘50s, you know? There’s no cursing, and people are good and right and love conquers all. It’It’s really very sweet. There’s a sweet earnestness to this film that people will either engage with or the cynicism of the world will win out.”

Let’s root for sweet earnestness. And doing the right thing.

Shirrel Rhoades is the movie reviewer for Cooke Communications North Carolina. He can be reached at