The Perfect Storm

The concept behind The Perfect Storm is a hard one to imagine surviving at the box office. After all, the movie, based on the novel by Sebastian Junger based on actual events, has a definite conclusion. Most people know the conclusion because they read the novel. Will they still want to see the movie? Hard to say. For those who do not know they conclusion, let's just say it is inevitable. And hey, there are arguments people can make on both sides (will they or won't they survive?). The Perfect Storm takes place in late 1991, when Hurricane Grace combined with two other weather fronts to create what some called "the perfect storm." Caught in the middle is the Andrea Gail, a swordfish boat with a small crew, looking to make some money.

Captain Billy Tyne (George Clooney, Out of Sight, Three Kings) is amidst hard times. He cannot seem to bring in a big catch of swordfish, unlike his friend and rival Linda Greenlaw (Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, Limbo, My Life So Far). They each respect each other deeply, and if not for each one's solitary nature, they would probably be a couple. But that's beside the point. Tyne is losing lots of money, so he decides to head out to the Flemish Cap, a location teeming with swordfish, but far out in the Atlantic. It is much further out than most crews venture, so getting a crew proves difficult. In then end, Tyne's crew consists of Bobby Shatford (Mark Wahlberg, Three Kings, The Corruptor), Murph (John C. Reilly, Magnolia, For Love of the Game), Sully (William Fichtner, Passion of Mind, Drowning Mona) and some other people who never really get a chance to act. With the exception of Shatford, these are all lonely men with beards. Some of them also don't get along well with each other.

The adaptation by Bill Wittliff (Legends of the Fall), Bo Goldman, and Jennifer Flackett realizes that watching the Andrea Gail for the entire movie would be boring. So they wisely add stories of other people affected by the storm, including a weatherman in Boston, a Coast Guard rescue team, three people on a boat, random other tankers, and the Andrea Gail's friends back in Gloucester, primarily Shatford's girlfriend Christina Cotter (Diane Lane, My Dog Skip, A Walk on the Moon). Both Lane and Wahlberg nail the annoying Gloucester accent to a tee. The other actors do respectable jobs. Mastrantonio, who could have been a good asset, appears only briefly. Clooney almost seems detached from most of the proceedings. As captain, Tyne wants to stay above his crew, both physically and mentally. He needs to retain his power as captain. However, the biggest asset to The Perfect Storm is ILM's amazing special effects. As the movie progresses, the storm gets worse, and the waves get bigger. And bigger.

Director Wolfgang Petersen's (Outbreak, Air Force One) knack for action still exists, and he puts it to good use here. The Perfect Storm has some of the most harrowing shots in recent memory. The waves end up eclipsing the actors themselves, overturning ships and rising unbelievably high into the sky. This is not hard to do, with the low level of characterization. The Perfect Storm begins calmly. Fishing is relaxing, even boring. Life moves slowly, almost idyllically. Then, the clouds start gathering, and the rain begins. Tyne it too bull-headed to turn back since he finally has a ship full of fish, and can recoup some of his losses. Petersen manages to keep the level of intention incredibly high. And the scenes of Tyne and crew fighting to save the Andrea Gail are incredible. Of course it's fake, but it sure looks real.

Haro Rates It: Not Bad.
2 hours, 9 minutes, Rated PG-13 for language and scenes of peril.

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