What Disney’s The Finest Hours illustrates about mission and sacrifice

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People organizing church events often ask me to recommend a film that will appeal to a broad audience, without being offensive to any; and will stimulate discussion, without being too demanding for those who are not film-buffs. I now have a new film in my current recommendation list.

The Finest Hours (in UK cinemas now) tells the true story of 33 crew members lost at sea on the stern section of SS Pendleton, which had been broken in half by a dreadful storm; and the four US Coastguards who faced almost certain death as they set out on a seemingly impossible rescue mission. This is not a so-called ‘faith-based’ film but the parallels with Christian mission are clear, powerful, and inspirational.

Bernie Webber (played by Chris Pine), is the young coxswain of a lifeboat, struggling to live with the weight of his past failures, but prepared to give his life to save those who are lost at sea. Experienced fishermen warn him that any mission to reach the stricken Pendleton in such a dreadful storm means certain death, and that he should turn back. But, in words almost identical to those used by many missionaries through the years he says “I’ve got to go out – they don’t say I’ve got to come back.”

In an experience matching those of many missionaries, he soon…

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