On February 18, 1952, one of the worst nor’easters in history hit New England. In fact, the roiling waters off Cape Cod were so severe that a couple of oil tankers totally split in half.
While the SS Fort Mercer was able to issue an urgent S.O.S., the SS Pendleton’s fore section was swallowed too quickly by the ocean to broadcast a distress call. The latter’s captain went down with the shortwave radio, too, leaving 34 sailors in the stern with no idea whether the world was even aware of their perilous plight.
As luck would have it, a tow truck driver (Matthew Maher) not only spotted a light from the Pendleton listing off the coast of Chatham, but he had the wherewithal to report it to the authorities immediately. Daniel Cluff (Eric Bana), the officer in charge of the local Coast Guard station, was a World War II vet who’d seen combat in the Pacific theater. He didn’t hesitate to order a rescue attempt, despite the blizzard’s frigid temperatures and gale force winds.
That unenviable task fell to Bosun’s Mate Bernie Webber (Chris Pine) who hastily assembled a crew composed of Seamen Richard Livesey (Ben Foster) and Ervin Maske (John Magaro), as well as Engineman Andrew Fitzgerald (Kyle Gallner). The rag-tag team left the harbor aboard a modest motorized lifeboat seating only a dozen and offering scant protection against the elements.
It would take a yeoman’s effort just to reach the sinking Pendleton, given that the tiny Coast Guard cutter encountered waves as high as 70-feet-tall out on the open seas. Moreover, Webber was further frustrated by the loss of his compass to one of the tsunamis.
Meanwhile, the remaining sailors on the Pendleton were doing their best to keep what was left of the ship afloat. With the skipper and his other officers already swept to watery deaths down in Davy Jones locker, a new leader emerged in Engineer Ray Sybert (Casey Affleck), a salty dog with nerves of steel and a wealth of naval knowledge.
The veteran boat whisperer not only took command of the crew, but determined that survival depended upon the electric pumps functioning long enough to ground the vessel on a sandbar. A third plotline was unfolding back in Chatham where the worried families of the brave Coast Guardsmen, including Bernie’s fiancee Miriam (Holliday Grainger), were wringing their hands.
Directed by Aussie Craig Gillespie (Million Dollar Arm), The Finest Hours is a gripping, seafaring adventure reminiscent of The Perfect Storm (2000). It is also based on a best-seller recounting the real-life exploits of some unsung heroes who rose to the occasion in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds.
A visually-captivating and remarkably-moving recreation of what, to this day, remains the most daring Coast Guard rescue on record.
Excellent (4 stars)
Running time: 117 minutes
Requiem For The American Dream
Cautionary Documentary Warns Of The Demise Of The Middle-Class
MIT Professor Noam Chomsky has been an outspoken critic of the Establishment ever since opposing the Vietnam War way back in the ’60s. At 87, the controversial firebrand is now decrying the incredible gulf between the filthy rich and the rest of us.
He is the subject of Requiem For The American Dream, a cautionary documentary delineating the consequences lying in wait for a nation where wealth is concentrated in the hands of the top 1/10th of 1% at the expense of the rapidly-disappearing middle-class. Co-directed by Peter D. Hutchison, Kelly Nyks and Jared P. Scott, the movie was culled from interviews conducted with Chomsky over the past four years.
Nevertheless, the talented trio managed to edit the footage into a very engaging and enlightening monologue bemoaning the current state of the union. The upshot is a fascinating film featuring a “less-is-more” format reminiscent of the one employed by Errol Morris in his Oscar-winning Fog Of War (2003).
The picture basically consists of close-ups of Chomsky shot against a black backdrop as he talks about the Machiavellian manipulations employed by the power elite. It also intermittently interweaves illustrative file footage of suffering and decadence into the production to help drive home the aging grass roots activist’s salient points.
Chomsky begins by waxing romantic about the Golden Age of the ’50s and ’60s when the American Dream was still within the grasp of the Average Joe. He says that was the period when the U.S. populace benefited the most from the host of domestic programs implemented by President Roosevelt. However, the affluent have always hated the New Deal, especially Social Security and the Glass-Steagall Act, which explains why they have repeatedly attempted to repeal those measures.
Chomsky states that, in addition, the privileged have deliberately crippled our democracy to such a degree that public opinion no longer has any influence on politicians. Just consider how it has been impossible to get Congress to pass a bill making it harder for the mentally ill to purchase a gun, despite the fact that the overwhelming majority of voters support the common sense idea.
Overall, what we have here is vintage Chomsky issuing a rabble-rousing, rallying cry intended to rouse the masses before it’s too late. America redefined as a civilization in sharp decline and on the verge of collapse because of the very greedy’s systematic elimination of class mobility from the society.
Excellent (4 stars).
Running time: 73 minutes
OPENING THIS WEEK
For movies opening January 29, 2016
Fifty Shades Of Black (R for crude sexuality, graphic nudity, coarse humor and pervasive profanity) Salacious spoof of Fifty Shades Of Grey featuring Marlon Wayans as a kinky tycoon who seduces a naive college student (Kali Hawk) into a sordid, sadomasochistic relationship. With Jane Seymour, Mike Epps and Fred Willard.
Kung Fu Panda 3 (PG for action and mild rude humor) Latest installment in the animated franchise finds Po (Jack Black) joining forces with his long-lost father (Bryan Cranston) for an adventure aimed at preventing a supernatural warrior (J.K. Simmons) from draining thousands of kung fu masters of their powers. Voice cast includes Dustin Hoffman, Angelina Jolie, Jackie Chan, Lucy Liu, Seth Rogen and Kate Hudson.
Everybody’s Fine (Unrated) Bittersweet character study, set in Beijing, revolving around a recently-widowed retiree (Guoli Zhang) who is agonizing over his four children’s (He Chen, Chen Yao, Shawn Duo and Ye Qianyun) failure to return home for the family’s annual summer reunion. (In Mandarin with subtitles)
Jane Got A Gun (R for violence and some profanity) Natalie Portman portrays the title character in this Western, set on ranch in New Mexico, about a woman who enlists the help of an ex (Joel Edgerton) in defending her family from the gang of outlaws that just ambushed her bullet-riddled husband (Noah Emmerich). With Ewan McGregor, Rodrigo Santoro and Boyd Holbrook.
Lazer Team (PG-13 for profanity, partying, sexuality, action, violence and teen smoking) Sci-fi comedy about four losers (Burnie Burns, Michael Jones, Gavin Free and Colton Dunn) called upon to save the planet during an invasion by aliens from outer space. Support cast includes Alan Ritchson, Irina Voronina and Alexandria DeBerry.
Rabin, The Last Day (Unrated) Assassination reenactment chronicling the final hours in the life of ill-fated, Israeli Prime Minister Itzhak Rabin. Co-starring Yitzhak Hizkiya, Pini Mittelman, Tomer Sisley, Ronen Keinan and Yogev Yefet.