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The Perfect Storm

movie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: The Perfect Storm

Starring: George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg
Director: Wolfgang Petersen
Rated: PG
RunTime: 129 Minutes
Release Date: June 2000
Genres: Action, Drama

*Also starring: Cherry Jones, Bob Gunton, Christopher McDonald, Josh Hopkins, Michael Ironside, Karen Allen, Diane Lane, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio

Review by Harvey Karten
No Rating Supplied

"The Perfect Storm" deals with the sorts of people who love their job as professional fishermen so much that they'd happily spend their retirement years with a rod and line as well. This bunch, though, are destined never to see those leisure years given the vagaries of nature. While the sea provides these fellows with the source of their income, it can be a vicious enemy as well, whether leaving them high and dry and bereft of anything to catch or wildly rich with a bounteous catch which, alas, will never be brought to market. We give nothing away to say this, as the movie is based on Sebastian Junger's non-fiction tale of a boat called the Andrea Gail which in October 1991 sailed from Gloucester, Massachusetts to the remote area of Flemish Cap, so far removed from familiar waters that the risk of being cast adrift by a storm would be disastrous to its crew.

But the hardy fellows in the Andrea Gail are Gloucester fishermen, a macho band who take as much pride in their profession as would a group of scientists finding a cure for the common cold. The principal drawback of the story is that because it is based on an actual disaster with which many in the audience would be familiar, there is little suspense. Adding to that flaw, director Wolfgang Petersen--who helmed the much more trenchant "Das Boot"--gives us little in the way of character development this time, so that we fail emotionally to become sufficiently caught up in their fate.

The picture opens in a dive at the Gloucester docks known as the Crow's Nest, the sort of place that we expect to see out west where the locals have nothing to do but drink, dance, and rent upstairs rooms by the hour. We are introduced to the men and the women who care for them. Billy Tyne (George Clooney), a divorced father with a perpetual three-day growth of hair on his face, is in a slide. The fish in the area are not biting, he's coming home with a pittance, and his pride is hurt so much that he is determined to risk all to break out of his slump with a grand-slam catch. A fellow divorce, Bobby Shatford (Mark Wahlberg) is attached to the just about the only good-looking girl among these salt- of-the-earth townspeople, Christine Cotter (Diane Lane), while Murph (John C. Reilly), Bugsy (John Hawkes), Alfred Pierre (Allen Payne) and David Sullivan (William Fichtner) fill out the crew.

Petersen divides the film into two segments. One involves the women who are left behind, with whom he milks the stereotypical situation of landlubbing females pining for their men while dreading the occupation they have chosen. The other deals with the way these guys relate to one another, which is predictable enough except for the perplexing and unmotivated enmity between Murph and Sullivan. Once the big storm hits--the storm of the century, thanks to the confluence of three pressure areas in the same location--the struggle for survival eventuates, a tussle that involves the brave machinations of a group of Air Force helicopter pilots whose job is to locate boats in trouble and rescue the inhabitants with the aid of a dropped basket. To break up the monotony, Petersen introduces an analogous situation, that of a yacht also caught in nature's wrath and which is the object of yet another daring rescue attempt by both a Coast Guard vessel and the chopper chugging just above the water with zero visibility.

The failure to develop any of the characters, the absence of suspense from a story well known by the audience, and perhaps most of all the artificial, computerized look of the big waves combine like the three meteorological pressure points to make this $140 million feature as disappointing to the audience as the senseless loss of lives is to the people who care for these bold anglers.

Copyright 2000 Harvey Karten

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