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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 Edward Johnson-Ott
2 stars out of 4

The media kit for "The Perfect Storm" begins with a special request that reads, "Warner Brothers Pictures would appreciate the press' cooperation in not revealing the ending of this film to their readers, viewers or listeners." Fair enough, but for this to work, everyone needs to do his or her part. So, if you are one of the millions who saw the news reports of the event in 1991, or if you read Sebastian Junger's book on the subject, which was on the New York Times bestseller list for over two years, remember: Mum's the word.

I believe in revealing as little about a movie's plot as possible (and will adhere to the WB guidelines in this review), but trying to hide the facts about this widely reported news story strikes me as more than a bit silly. Imagine the press kit for "Titanic" stating "Please don't tell anyone the boat sank."

Incidentally, it appears that Warner Brothers forgot to make the same request of their cast, because I've heard two actors spill the beans on late night talk shows over the past week.

Set in Gloucester, Massachusetts, a major North Atlantic fishing port, "The Perfect Storm" deals with those who make their livings from the sea and focuses on a storm of almost indescribable ferocity, created when three raging weather fronts collided. Pity the crew of the Andrea Gail, a swordfishing boat that ventures hundreds of miles out in search of a big catch. The storm hits full force just as their ice machine breaks down, leaving the men with two choices: dump their lucrative boatload of fish and venture even further out to sea in search of calm waters, or try to salvage their income and pride by navigating through the worst storm in recorded history.

Sitting in our comfy middle-class homes, the correct decision seems painfully obvious. But as the film establishes during its opening 40 minutes, these people live an extremely challenging life that requires risks to be taken on a regular basis.

Unfortunately, the screenplay fails to fully flesh out the men as individuals. The extremely talented cast, led by George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg and John C. Reilly, must deal with sketchily drawn characters. The actors give it their all, but remain stereotypes rather than realized individuals. The folks on the shore, including Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio and Diane Lane, have little more to do than cry, shout and look worried. Credit must be given to Rusty Schwimmer, a large woman with an incredibly expressive face. When crew member Bugsy (John Hawkes) hits on her the night before the Gail sets off to sea, she recognizes that his need goes beyond a quick lay. In a quietly touching scene, she shows up dockside the next morning so that he won't be the only man without anyone to see him off.

As for the storm, I found Wolfgang Petersen's direction so engrossing that I failed to evaluate the quality of the special effects. The other critics in attendance complained of numerous unconvincing images, but I didnít notice. Several action set pieces are thrilling, particularly a shark attack on the deck of the Gail, Captain Clooney's exploits while trying to repair a broken mast, and the Coast Guard's amazing rescue efforts.

Speaking of the Coast Guard, a Discovery Channel documentary on the storm identified the rescue crew by name and featured interviews with them. "The Perfect Storm" would be a far more satisfying film had they made those Coast Guard members as prominent, rather than using them as anonymous supporting players. Unfortunately, to explain further, I would have to violate the Warner Brothers request, but, after you see the movie, I'm sure you'll know what I mean.

Copyright © 2000 Edward Johnson-Ott

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