The plot centres on the fishing boat Andrea Gale, captained by Billy Tyne (Clooney) and heading out to find a badly needed haul of swordfish while three weather systems merge to form a deadly storm in their path. Much of the film focuses on the relationships between the six crewmen: a gung-ho rookie (Wahlberg) pining after his girlfriend (Lane), two seasoned seadogs (Reilly and Fichtner) with a grudge match, a lonely engineer (Hawkes) with his first chance at love back home (Schwimmer), and a gentle foreigner (Payne). And as the storm brews and traps them at sea, we also watch the tenacious Coast Guard rescue team at work, an astonished weatherman (McDonald), the women back home, and so on.
Being a true story, we brace ourselves for the worst and let Petersen and the ILM effects geniuses work their magic. And that they do! The film is compelling, exciting and full of suspense as it switches from one amazing set piece to the next. The digital effects are (for a change) seamless; on the big screen they're so impressive that we actually cower from the next watery onslaught. The sheer nervewracking physicality of the film leaves us drained afterwards! Meanwhile, the actors do the most with their thinly written roles, which are slightly augmented by movie-shorthand backstory but never grab hold meaningfully. Perhaps this is because there's so much happening on so many fronts. The result is that the script's continual attempts at emotion feel both shallow and forced ... and this Hollywood artificiality weakens the true story's raw power. Some of that power does manage to break through the schmaltz. But it's the high adventure that makes the film worth seeing.
[12--suspense, grisliness, language] 12.Jul.00
US release 30.Jun.00; UK release 28.Jul.00
"With all the hype about this movie, I had to go see it - besides, I am a Clooney fan. I think I was expecting more action and seafaring adventure, and had not read about the real-life 'perfect storm,' so was not totally sure what to expect. It starts out showing us the people in the story, and letting us get to appreciate where they are coming from. I can imagine that being a professional fisherman would be a difficult way to earn a living at best, and impossible at its worst, and this movie did show us that. The beginning seemed a bit slow, but maybe that was because I was expecting more action - all the trailers show lots of water and big storm scenes, but once the storm builds, it starts to move. Clooney plays Billy, a fishing boat captain who has not been bringing in the big hauls lately, and his crew are feeling the pinch. He decides to take them out one more time, to a place very far from their usual fishing grounds - and while they are there, hauling in over 60,000 lbs of fish, a big storm is brewing between them and the mainland. When their ice machine dies, they decide to go for broke, literally, and go through the storm, or lose their catch. I did like this movie and am glad I went to see it. Just not as much action as I had expected, and the ending is a bummer!" --Laurie T, Minneapolis.
"An afternoon visit for the first time in a while, just seeking entertainment. And did we get it. This is a rollercoaster of a movie that leaves you strung out and tense for hours afterwards. The sea is both a benign friend and a powerful killer - Clooney's character loves the sea, and it tries to take his life. The opening scene setting is OK but just sets the scene and doesn't add that much, we could have started on the boat with a few quick flashbacks for my money, but Petersen must have thought, 'a whole film on a boat ... nah, done that!' But great entertainment, even though if you go over in those seas you don't come back - and as for diving overboard and swimming underwater and seeing where you're going. But hey, lets not quibble for a moment. Go see it quick." --Matt D, West Yorkshire.
HOME | AWARDS | READER REVIEWS | Q&A | ABOUT | TALKBACK