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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 Steve Rhodes
2 stars out of 4

"Billy, you're not going to like this, but I'm going to say it anyway: You be careful," swordfish boat captain Linda Greenlaw (Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio) radios to captain Billy Tyne, played with a single, wooden expression by George Clooney.

Yes, she's right. He doesn't like it, and he doesn't listen, even if he's endangering the lives of his crew by knowingly sailing into the "Storm of the Century" in order to bring home a lucrative catch. You, however, will have to listen to lots of such hackneyed dialog in THE PERFECT STORM, a TV disaster movie of the week masquerading as this summer's big action picture.

You might think Billy's foolhardy actions would make him the villain of this piece, but it doesn't. In a bit of class hatred, William Wittliff's script reserves that role for the owner of the boat that Billy seems destined to smash to smithereens.

Based on a popular book by Sebastian Junger, the movie claims to be based on a true story, which in a way it is. But the facts that the book had to work from are sketchy so that it has to be described as a fictional tale based on what we know about a true story. This, however, has little to do with the problems in the movie.

As the story opens, we find ourselves stuck in a long half-hour soap opera about Gloucester fishermen and their families with divorced being the most common state. At first, it seems like the picture will never get into gear.

At the center of the story is Billy, a captain who has been having a string of bad luck lately with catches so small that his crew has begun to doubt him. But, since they all share in the take, they agree to sail out with him one more time to the Grand Banks before the season ends.

For those few viewers who do not know the ending, the picture feels obligated to telegraph it for them frequently. "The Grand Banks are no joke in October," the mother of junior crew member Bobby Shatford (Mark Wahlberg) sternly warns him. With a beautiful girlfriend (Diane Lane) who needs money, he's willing to risk the late season journey. She has kids from a previous marriage and requires funds for a lawyer so she can sue to get them back.

After a lot of petty bickering on board ship and after a slew of bad luck, the storm finally hits. The surprise is that the action in the center ring about the boat isn't in the least bit edge-of-the seat material. No matter how much water they splash around and no matter how rocky the waves are around the toy models, they are never credible. And with the fast action editing, it becomes one long, tedious and blurry bore. Even when the end seems near, our eyes are the only dry part of the theater. The movie just never creates characters worth caring about.

On the other hand, there are two significant subplots in the side rings. A clichéd one involves a sailboat skippered with stupid bravado. A much better one concerns the rescue helicopter sent out to save both of our foolish captains. The remarkable bravery of the helicopter crew is the only compelling story in the movie.

Finally, there is the manipulative ending, of which the less said the better. James Horner's dramatic music conjures up images of the much better film that I thought I was going to see -- one that was worthy of the movie's superlative director, Wolfgang Petersen (DAS BOOT). Instead, I got little models tossed around in choppy water. If I had seen the movie on television, where it belongs, I would have turned it off. The fishermen of Gloucester, of which 10,000 have died since 1632 according to the ending credits, deserve a more fitting memorial that this motion picture.

THE PERFECT STORM runs a long 2:09. It is rated PG-13 for language and scenes of peril and would be acceptable for teenagers.

Copyright © 2000 Steve Rhodes

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