The Perfect Storm

Impending doom: Can skipper Billy Tyne (Clooney) muscle his way through the storm and get his crew home safely?
dir Wolfgang Petersen; scr Bill Wittliff
with George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg, John C Reilly, Diane Lane, William Fichtner, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, John Hawkes, Allen Payne, Dash Mihok, Rusty Schwimmer, Christopher McDonald, Karen Allen
Warners 00/US 3 out of 5 stars
Review by Rich Cline
Based on Sebastian Junger's book about the 1991 "Storm of the Century" off the Massachusetts coast, The Perfect Storm takes some literary licence with the people involved, adding to the true story lots of drama and sentiment. While someone who knows the facts can weed out the fiction, the rest of us have to take this as a film on its own merits. And as such, it's pretty gripping stuff!

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

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feel its fury"What to say. I'd say that it's another good performance from Clooney following up his work on Three Kings. Wahlberg also does pretty well. There could have been a little more character development, but nothing is so bad that it takes away from the movie. The side storylines seemed kind of out of place considering we were all there to see the story of Clooney and his bunch. I'm glad it stuck to the ending of the real story instead of going really cliche. One thing that stuck out as kind of, hmm, corny maybe was Wahlberg's little speech at the end. Just kind of made you say, 'Yeah right, come on.' Yet all in all, it was a pretty good flick, superb effects and overall good performances." --Woody K, St Louis.

"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.

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2000 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall