The Finest Hours (2016) - Plot Summary Poster


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  • The Coast Guard makes a daring rescue attempt off the coast of Cape Cod after a pair of oil tankers are destroyed during a blizzard in 1952.

  • In February of 1952, one of the worst storms to ever hit the East Coast struck New England, damaging an oil tanker off the coast of Cape Cod and literally ripping it in half. On a small lifeboat faced with frigid temperatures and 70-foot high waves, four members of the Coast Guard set out to rescue more than 30 stranded sailors trapped aboard the rapidly-sinking vessel.

  • In 1952, in Cape Cod in Massachusetts, the US Coast Guard station in Chatham receives a distress signal from the oil tankers SS Pendleton and SS Fort Mercer. Commander Daniel Cluff assigns the crew formed by Bernie Webber, Richard Livesey, Andy Fitzgerald and Ervin Maske to rescue the crew of the SS Pendleton in a small rescue boat. Cluff is warned about the intensity of the storm by Bernie and also by his girlfriend Miriam but he keeps the order. Meanwhile the SS Pendleton has broken and lost her forward part and his skilled and experienced engineer Ray Sybert assumes the command of the survivors. He uses his abilities to steer the stern in a safer position, grounding it on an unstable bank of sand to avoid sinking.

  • February 1952. Bernie Webber is a boatswain/Petty Officer at a Coast Guard station on the coast of Massachusetts. A massive storm is in progress out to sea, damaging two tankers to the point that they appear likely to sink. On one tanker, the Pendleton, the chief engineer, Ray Sybert, is using all his ingenuity, resourcefulness and experience to keep the ship afloat and buy time until help arrives. Unfortunately for him and his crew, the Coast Guard have sent their best crew and rescue boat to the other stricken tanker. When the Coast Guard discover the Pendleton's situation, Webber and a 3-man crew are sent to help. The odds are stacked against Webber - just leaving the harbour in those seas will require large amounts of skill, courage and luck. Then they have to find the Pendleton, without a compass, rescue the crew and somehow make it home safe.

  • On a stormy night in the winter of 1952, off the coast of Massachusetts in Cape Cod, a violent tempest splits in half two oil tankers: the SS Fort Mercer and the SS Pendleton where its 32-member crew struggle to keep afloat the fragmented hull in the middle of the raging sea. With most of the area's available Coast Guard forces deployed to save the crew of the sinking Mercer, it seems that Pendleton's only hope lies with Coast Guard officer Bernie Webber's skeleton crew and a small lifeboat amidst towering waves and the omnipotent forces of nature. In this suicide mission against all odds, no one knows if the remaining survivors are still alive; nevertheless, it takes heroism and great courage to throw yourself into the mouth of hell to save a soul in peril.

  • Bernard "Bernie" Webber, a crewman at the Coast Guard station in Chatham, Massachusetts, on Cape Cod, has fallen in love with a local girl, Miriam Pentinen. The two plan to marry on April 16, but in accordance with Coast Guard regulations, Bernie must seek permission from the station's commander, Daniel Cluff. On the day he is due to ask permission, the oil tanker SS Pendleton shears in half off the Chatham coast after getting caught in a nor'easter. With the majority of the station's crew already underway with the rescue of the similarly damaged SS Fort Mercer, Bernie is dispatched to pilot motor lifeboat CG 36500 to rescue the crew of Pendleton. Andrew Fitzgerald, Ervin Maske, and Richard P. Livesey volunteer to join Bernie on the rescue mission..


The synopsis below may give away important plot points.


  • This film is based on a true story.

    Wellfleet, Massachusetts, November 1951.

    Bernie Webber (Chris Pine) and his friend are meeting two ladies for a date. Bernie hasn't met this woman yet and is nervous that she won't like how he looks. When they do meet, they are instantly attracted to each other. Her name is Miriam Penttinen (Holliday Grainger). The two couples go out for the night, ending it on a boat that Bernie, a coast guard, can ride. Before getting on the boat, Miriam kisses Bernie.

    Four months later (February 17, 1952).

    Bernie and Miriam are together at a dance. Miriam asks Bernie if he'll marry her. He says 'no', driving her to tears and she runs out of the building. Bernie follows her out and explains that he does want to marry her, but feels that he cannot due to his job. She assures him that she'll stick with him no matter what, and Bernie decides that he definitely wants to marry her.

    Meanwhile, on a stormy night, two oil tankers, SS Fort Mercer and SS Pendleton, are sailing on the ocean amidst heavy winds and pouring rain. The storm becomes so intense that the waves hit the boat hard until one such wave breaks a hole into the ship. Water starts to spill inside and throw the men all over the place. The damage gets so bad that the ship splits in two, and Mercer sinks to the bottom of the ocean. Knowing they have to stay afloat until they can be rescued, engineer Ray Sybert (Casey Affleck) suggests they run the boat aground to keep it up steadily. The men prepare themselves for this.

    Bernie is assigned by his superior Daniel Cluff (Eric Bana) to take the CG 36500 motorboat to go out and rescue the men. Bernie brings with him Richard Livesley (Ben Foster), Andy Fitzgerald (Kyle Gallner), and Ervin Maske (John Magaro) to help.

    The men on the boat work hard to steer the boat aground, though a few of them try to escape on a lifeboat. Ray cuts the rope to the boat and lets it drop. The boat hits the water and is quickly destroyed against the side of the ship.

    The coast guard men ride through the storm across the treacherous water. They get hit with waves that nearly throw them off their boat, but they hang on tight and continue to brave the storm.

    Miriam arrives at the station and tearfully demands that Cluff bring Bernie and the others back, knowing how terrible the storm is. Cluff refuses and orders Miriam out of the office. She leaves and drives away, accidentally losing control of the car and driving into a mound of snow where the car gets stuck. Miriam is picked up by a woman who happens to be the wife of Carl Nickerson (Matthew Maher), the man that reported the tankers sinking, making him indirectly responsible for why Bernie and his friends are out in the storm. Carl gets Miriam's car out of the mound.

    The engineers finally manage to run the ship aground and keep it standing long enough until the coast guard finally arrive. It is noted that there are too many men to fit on the one boat, but they insist on trying. They drop a Jacob's ladder down, and the men slowly start to descend. Some of them fall into the water but are pulled onto the motorboat. Others jump and are caught by Richard, Andy, and Ervin. One man, the ship's cook Tiny Myers (Abraham Benrubi), falls into the water and is killed when his head is struck by the tanker. Ray is the last man to make it onto the boat. The Pendleton slowly loosens and sinks.

    Bernie calls the station back and informs them that they rescued the men but lost their compass and have no way of making it back to the shore. As the men sail back, Miriam and multiple citizens bring their cars around to the shoreline and flash their headlights to give the men a signal. They make it back and are cheered on as heroes. Bernie and Miriam embrace and kiss.

    The final text states that Bernie Webber, Andy Fitzgerald, Richard Livesley, and Ervin Maske were seen as heroes. Bernie and Miriam were married until his death in 2009.

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