The Perfect Storm? Definitely!
A stomach-in-knots true story.
A dangerous profession. A deadly weather front made up by the collision of three massive weather systems. A heaving
ocean with monstrous walls of water. A realism so compelling you can almost taste the salt spray and smell the 250-lb fish. A stellar cast.
The perfect storm? Definitely.
The perfect film? Not quite.
The Perfect Storm was originally delivered to the world by journalist Sebastian Junger in his bestselling book of the same name.
The story follows the crew of the Andrea Gail, a sword-fishing trawler. Andrea Gail, in 1991,
had the misfortune of finding herself in the midst of the most devastating sea storm of the 20th century.
On board are skipper Billy Tyne (an unglamorous George Clooney, looking convincingly lived-in), sword-fishing rookie Bobby (an unkempt Mark Wahlberg) and a motley crew of veteran fishermen (John C Reilly, Fincher, John Hawkes, Allen Payne).
The first uneventful hour of The Perfect Storm is mostly spent in a local watering hole introducing Tyne's crew in a 'we have to get to know them so we can cry for them when the ride gets rough' fashion.
The men are drawn in broad, primitive strokes, displaying their clichéd stock of testesterone and aggression before the inevitable male bonding.
Linda (Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio) is a rival boat captain interested in Billy Tyne. Christina (Diane Lane) is Bobby's girlfriend. While they lend the requisite feminine touches, their skills are limited to waiting, weeping
and wringing hands.
When director Peterson (Das Boot, Air Force One) finally throws the towel into the ocean, the movie's greatest character, the perfect storm, makes its impressive debut, much to the audience's relief. The computer-generated oceanic effects will sweep you away with their sheer energy and muscle. After all, it's the effects, and not too much else, that are a sight to
From the onset, it is clear that THE event will be Andrea Gail's struggle with the temperamental ocean. But just when you are being carried up by a wave that is causing havoc, the film cuts away from Andrea Gail's battles, making digressions to follow the rescue attempts of a coast guard helicopter, a weatherman's wave-by-wave storm broadcast or the fate of a giant cargo ship.
While these sub-plots seem to create a tantalising suspense, they nearly capsize the audience's interest in the
fate of the Andrea Gail, the plot's main undercurrent.
George Clooney is effective as the edgy, tough-as-nails captain, while Mark Wahlberg is credible as the rookie looking for the big catch so he can buy happiness. But Clooney, Wahlberg and the rest are dwarfed by the oceanic effects that have the capacity to overawe everything, except maybe the audiences.
If technology moves you, this is the film for you. But if it's emotional depth you are seeking, you will be acutely aware of a void. Petersen's characters serve as mere pawns in the broader story. Small embellishments serve dramatic needs, but you care about the people at a dutiful distance, never with upfront empathy.
The Perfect Storm proudly presents itself as a tribute to all those men and women who battled nature at her most cruel. Then why, we wonder, do we learn so little about them?
Ultimately, it's all about the wave. A really, really big wave.
Cast: George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg, Diane Lane, Mary Elizabeth
Mastrantonio, John C Reilly, William Fincher, Karen Allen, Allen Payne, Bob Gunton, John Hawkes, Cherry Jones, Christopher McDonald, Michael Ironside, Rusty Schwimmer
Director: Wolfgang Petersen
Producer: Paula Weinstein, Wolfgang Petersen, Gail Katz
Script: Bill Wittliff, Bo Goldman
Cinematographer: John Seale
Editor: Richard Francis-Bruce
Music: James Horner
Production Design: William Sandell
Distributor: Warner Bros International
Running Time: 130 Minutes
The Perfect Storm site
The Mark Wahlberg home page
The George Clooney page