Reel Reviews

‘The Finest Hours’

A-III – adults


Watch Trailer

Water, water everywhere

The remarkable true story of the most daring small boat rescue mission in Coast Guard history comes to the big screen in “The Finest Hours” (Disney).

In February 1952, a powerful Nor’easter struck the Massachusetts coast, pummeling shoreline towns and wreaking havoc on ships caught in its deadly path. Among these were two oil tankers bound for Boston, the S.S. Mercer and the S.S. Pendleton.

Beset by 60-foot waves and hurricane-force winds, both vessels broke apart. The Mercer, its bow intact, radioed for assistance and was the focus of a major rescue operation.

The Pendleton was not so lucky. The bow and its radio sunk, stranding 36 sailors in the stern, bobbing like a cork in the mighty sea. With no SOS, who would come to their aid?

By chance, the Pendleton pops up on radar at the Coast Guard station in Chatham, headed by Warrant Officer Daniel Cluff (Eric Bana). Despite extreme conditions, he orders Boatswains Mate 1st Class Bernie Webber (Chris Pine) to muster three men and set out in a wooden 36-foot lifeboat, certainly no match for the storm conditions.

Duty and honor prevail, as Seamen Richard Livesey (Ben Foster), Andrew Fitzgerald (Kyle Gallner), and Ervin Maske (John Magaro) volunteer for duty. Fellow officers try to dissuade Webber, calling the rescue a suicide mission. Webber’s newly minted fiancee, Miriam (Holliday Grainger), is frantic with worry, compounded by the fact that she is terrified of the water (then why marry a sailor, one wonders?).

“In the Coast Guard they say, ‘You gotta go out,’” Webber reminds his crew. “They don’t say, ‘You gotta come back in.’”

As the lifeboat sets out, a David in search of a Goliath, disaster strikes with the first wave. The craft nearly capsizes, and the onboard compass is lost.

With no navigation aid, Webber must pilot in the blind, relying on faith, instinct and a whole lotta luck to find the wreck.

Meanwhile, aboard the Pendleton, engineer Ray Sybert (Casey Affleck) takes command of the crisis situation. The stern section is slowly sinking, so the survivors must improvise a way to buy precious time while they steer the stern toward land.

“The Finest Hours” is old-fashioned moviemaking on a grand scale. Director Craig Gillespie (“Million Dollar Arm”), working from the 2009 novel by Michael J. Tougias and Casey Sherman, strikes the right balance between striking renderings of Mother Nature’s fury (even more impressive than 2000’s “The Perfect Storm”), and quieter moments, conveying fear and dread among the rescuers and the rescued.

Happily, Gillespie makes time to show the close-knit community joining in prayer, and an individual fingering a rosary.

As for all that water, bring along your sea legs. The storm sequences are intense and immersive (especially in 3-D), and could have you reaching for the sick bag.

The film contains extreme storm-based action and scenes of peril, and some crude and profane language. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III – adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13 – parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.

By Joseph McAleer, Catholic News Service

‘13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi’

L – limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling


Watch Trailer

A story for adults

Some might fear, simply from reading its title, that “13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi” (Paramount) would be little more than a rehash of the congressional hearings on the 2012 terrorist attack in Libya.

In reality, the film is a gripping, fact-based account of what happened on the ground when the U.S. consulate in the titular city was overrun, and four American lives – most prominently that of Ambassador Chris Stevens – were lost.

Michael Bay, who knows a things or two about action thrillers (“The Rock,” “Armageddon” and the “Transformers” franchise), directs at a furious pace. His task is to dramatize the eyewitness accounts of six security operatives documented in the 2014 book by Mitchell Zuckoff.

Partisan political views and conspiracy theories are set aside in favor of highlighting the courage and selflessness of unsung heroes who put themselves in harm’s way to save lives.

Jack Da Silva (John Krasinski), a former Navy SEAL, arrives in Benghazi as part of a band of security consultants hired to defend a top-secret CIA base. They’re a gruff, buff bunch of apparently hard-bitten-military vets who go by such nicknames as “Rone” (James Badge Dale), “Oz” (Max Martini), “Tanto” (Pablo Schreiber), “Boon” (David Denman), and “Tig” (Dominic Fumusa).

Predictably, however, they’re all softies at heart – family men who call their loved ones often with reassuring pledges that they’ll return home safely.

A visit to the area by Tripoli-based Stevens (Matt Letscher) presents the group with a serious challenge. The local diplomatic compound, just one mile from their CIA base, has minimum security. Stevens, though, is upbeat and optimistic, preferring to build bridges instead of fences.

Jack and his colleagues express concern, but are rebuffed by their boss, an official identified only as “Bob” (David Costabile).

“The truth is, there is no real threat here,” Bob says.

Such thinking is so disastrously wrongheaded, Tanto is driven to observe: “You can’t tell the good guys from the bad guys.”

And so we come to the fateful 11th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. The day unfolds quietly, but as soon as night falls the consulate is besieged by gunmen and set ablaze.

From their nearby vantage point, Jack and the others watch in horror. Yet they’re prevented from staging a rescue by Bob. Repeated calls to the Pentagon and the State Dept. requesting air support go unanswered.

As the full extent of the carnage is revealed, including the death of Stevens, Rone rallies his team to defy Bob and enter the fray. Over the long hours that follow, these six men are the first and only line of defense against a growing mob on a murderous rampage.

As it chronicles a modern-day Battle of the Alamo, “13 Hours” is awash in sometimes bloody mayhem. To Bay’s credit, however, the violence is never gratuitous. Instead it registers as an integral part of the events his movie is recounting, a tragedy that apparently could have been avoided, had someone -- anyone -- in authority responded in a timely and adequate manner.

While “13 Hours” is not an appropriate choice for casual moviegoers of any age, its thematic significance and real-world resonance are such that even many adults who would normally shun a picture showcasing so much armed conflict may decide, on balance, to see this one.

The film contains constant graphic war violence, including gunfire, explosions, and gore, brief sexual banter and some profane and crude language. The Catholic News Service classification is L – limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R – restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.

By Joseph McAleer, Catholic News Service

Monthly List of Recent Film Ratings (June 2015)

CNS classifications: A-I: general patronage; A-II: adults and adolescents; A-III: adults; L: limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling; O: morally offensive.
MPAA ratings: G: general audiences. All ages admitted; PG: parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children; PG-13: parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13; R: restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian; NC-17: no one 17 and under admitted.

The Age of Adaline, A-III (PG-13)
Aloha, A-II (PG-13)
Avengers: Age of Ultron, A-III (PG-13)
The Awakening, A-III (R)
Begin Again, A-III (R)
Chappie, L (R)
Child 44, A-III (R)
Cinderella, A-I (PG)
The D Train, O (R)
Danny Collins, A-III (R)
The Divergent Series: Insurgent, A-III (PG-13)
Do You Believe?, A-II (PG-13)
Dream House, L (PG-13)
The DUFF, A-III (PG-13)
Ex Machina, O (R)
Far from the Madding Crowd, A-II (PG-13)
Focus, L (R)
Furious 7, A-III (PG-13)
Get Hard, O (R)
The Gunman, L (R)
Home, A-I (PG)
Hot Pursuit, A-III (PG-13)
It Follows, O (R)
Jupiter Ascending, A-III (PG-13)
Kingsman: The Secret Service, A-III (R)
The Last Exorcism Part II, L (PG-13)
The Lazarus Effect, A-III (PG-13)
Little Boy, A-II (PG-13)
The Longest Ride, A-III (PG-13)
Mad Max: Fury Road, L (R)
Marie's Story, A-II (not rated)
McFarland, USA, A-II (PG)
Monkey Kingdom, A-I (G)
Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2, A-I (PG)
Pitch Perfect 2, A-III (PG-13)
Poltergeist, A-III (PG-13)
Project Almanac, A-III (PG-13)
The Pyramid, A-III (R)
Run All Night, L (R)
San Andreas, A-III (PG-13)
The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, A-III (PG)
Seventh Son, A-II (PG-13)
The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water, A-I (PG)
Tomorrowland, A-II (PG)
The Trip to Italy, A-III (not rated)
True Story, A-III (R)
Unfinished Business, O (R)
Unfriended, O (R)
The Water Diviner, A-III (R)
Woman in Gold, A-II (PG-13)

Copyright (c) 2015 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops