Release Date(s)2016 (May 24, 2016)
Studio(s)Whitaker/Red Hawk (Walt Disney Pictures)
- Film/Program Grade: B-
- Video Grade: B
- Audio Grade: A
- Extras Grade: D-
During a terrible nor’easter in the winter of 1952, two oil tankers broke in half off the coast of Massachusetts, leaving their crews at the mercy of the Atlantic. When the first tanker called for help, the Coast Guard station in Chatham on Cape Cod sent their most experienced team out in dire conditions to attempt a rescue. When the second tanker required help, though, it was down to a twenty-four year old petty officer named Bernie Webber to lead a crew of three men in a 36-foot lifeboat over a treacherous bar and out into fifty-foot seas to try and save them. The events that followed became one of the most famous small-craft rescues in the history of the U.S. Coast Guard.
Based in part on the book of similar name by Michael J. Tougias and Casey Sherman, Disney’s big screen retelling is as straightforward a period film adaptation as you’ve come to expect from the studio. There aren’t really any twists or surprises here – this is an old-fashioned disaster rescue drama that stays comfortably within the numbers. Still the film’s cast, led by Chris Pine (Star Trek and Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit) and Casey Affleck (The Assassination of Jessie James, Gone Baby Gone), delivers yeoman-like performances. Pine is surprisingly contained and earnest, and works well with his supporting players. Also refreshing is British actress Holliday Grainger (Jane Eyre, Anna Karenina, The Borgias) as Bernie’s fiancé, Miriam.
Disney’s Blu-ray offers the film’s 2D presentation in solid 1080p video quality at the original 2.39:1 theatrical aspect ratio. The image offers good contrast and color on the whole, though it should be noted that the palette is period muted and much of the film takes place in dim and murky conditions less conducive to producing HD demo material. Still, there’s sufficient detail visible, even in the darkest areas of the picture, and artifacting is minimal. Unfortunately, while The Finest Hours was released theatrically in 3D, Disney has chosen not to make a Blu-ray 3D version available here in the States (though one is apparently planned for Japan). On the audio front, the film’s 7.1 English DTS-HD Master Audio presentation is impressive, with nicely-immersive staging, placement, and panning, great low end reinforcement, and exceptional sound design. You’ll hear all kinds of subtle and not-so-subtle audio cues in the mix, from thunderous waves to the creaking and groaning of ship hulls, with clear dialogue throughout. Additional sound options include 2.0 English Descriptive Audio, and 5.1 French and Spanish Dolby Digital, along with subtitles in English for the Hearing Impaired, French, and Spanish.
Sadly, very little effort has been put into the extras on this release – a trend all-too familiar to Blu-ray consumers these days. What you get amounts to a handful of promotional featurettes, the best of which is Against All Odds: The Bernie Webber Story (14:10), which features nice interviews with local historians, Chatham residents who experienced these events firsthand, and a few of Webber’s actual family members. There are a pair of Deleted Scenes (together they run 4:28) and you get four EPK clips that aren’t worth writing about but include Brotherhood (1:49), Two Crews (2:02), What Is Your Finest Hour? (1:02), and The Finest Inspiration: The U.S. Coast Guard Story (1:42). There are also Sneak Peek trailers (for Finding Dory and Zootopia), plus the packaging includes a paper insert code for a Digital HD version.
Its solid cast combines with serviceable direction and visual effects, terrific sound design, and a fine score by Carter Burwell, to make The Finest Hours a fairly standard yet somewhat better than expected way to spend a couple of hours in your home theater. Just be sure to buy it on sale, however, because aside from its A/V quality, Disney’s least-amount-of-effort Blu-ray barely passes muster.
- Bill Hunt