Review by Dustin Putman
3 stars out of 4
Wolfgang Petersen's "The Perfect Storm," is a slam-bang, pulse-pounding
action thriller that has the clear distinction of creating the most realistic
and horrifying storm ever put to celluloid. This is appropriate, of course,
since it is based upon the worst storm in recorded history that fell upon the
New England border in October 1991, when three weather patterns (a cold
front, a low-pressure system, and a hurricane) collided. With the awesome
technology of Industrial Light & Magic, Petersen has crafted a technical
masterpiece that puts you dead-center in the storm, surrounded by visual
effects that never once call attention to themselves, and are always nothing
less than believable.
The humans involved in the catastrophe hold no such scrutiny, but they are
adequately developed enough that we care about them when their lives become
in peril. The film focuses on the plight of the Andrea Gail, a boat holding a
crew of fisherman from Gloucester, Mass., who have set out on the open seas
for one last attempt to earn some extra money by catching swordfish. When
skipper Billy Tyne (George Clooney) decides to travel to the faraway Flemish
Cap for one last round of fishing, despite the warnings of friendly rival
Linda Greenlaw (Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio) that they will have no way of
getting back without passing through the storm, Billy's pride and ego get the
best of him. With the agreement of the other men on board, including Bobby
Shatford (Mark Wahlberg), whose loving girlfriend, Christina (Diane Lane),
waits nervously on land, they opt to ride out the storm rather than let all
of the fish they have caught spoil. What they don't know, since their radio
has gone out, is the full force of the storm, and that they are heading right
for the eye of it.
Accurately capturing each side of the storm, and the people involved in it,
there are also four subplots at hand: the dilemma of the search and rescue
helicopter team; the plight of the Mistral, a yacht headed for Bermuda that
is carrying three passengers (Karen Allen, Bob Gunton, Cherry Jones); the
Andrea Gail's friends and family, who nailbitingly await any news on their
rescue; and the meteorologist (Christopher McDonald) who first coined the
phrase, "The Perfect Storm," because every weather pattern was in place to
create a storm of disastrous proportions.
Based on the book of the same name by Sebastian Junger, "The Perfect Storm"
is an edge-of-your-seat thrill ride that is one step above most disaster
pictures of its type because of the reality that is brought to it, both from
a visual standpoint, as well as in its portrayal of the working-class
characters. While not all are developed satisfactorily, particularly the
three passengers on the Mistral, as well as suave, ladies' man Andrea Gail
traveler Alfred Pierre (Allen Payne), they all are on hand to create a dark
atmosphere and brooding sense of dread that hangs over the proceedings.
As head of the Andrea Gail, George Clooney is well-cast as the no-nonsense
Billy Tyne, whose love of fishing outweighs all other things, including the
possibility of death. Their second film in a row together (the other being
1999's "Three Kings"), Mark Wahlberg equips himself nicely as Bobby Shatford,
a young man who tells Billy at one point, "I have a girl that I can't stand
to be away from for more than ten minutes. But then again, I love to fish."
Bobby has agreed for Christina to do away with his somewhat dangerous
profession after this one last trip, and the conflicting feelings that he
feels is made palpable, due to Wahlberg's strong performance.
Rounding out the large cast is the always-good Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio,
as Linda Greenlaw; Diane Lane, as Christina; John C. Reilly, heartfelt and
likable as Andrea Gail fisherman Dale Murphy, who is having problems handling
not being able to see his young son as much since he separated from his wife;
William Fichtner as bad-tempered Sully; and John Hawkes as the lonely Bugsy.
As Irene, a straight-talking, yet sweet, single mother whom Bugsy strikes up
a potential relationship with before he sets off on the Andrea Gale, Rusty
Schwimmer is a charismatic, natural standout, and steals each of her scenes.
All human actors, however, play second banana to the star attraction of the
picture, which is the robust, life-threatening storm itself, complete with
downpouring rain, violent lightning, and, in a startlingly frightening
climactic moment, a 100-foot tidal wave. The special effects supervisors at
ILM have done a striking job bringing the storm to life, in all its horrific
glory, and it is because of them that most warrants seeing it on the big
"The Perfect Storm" isn't a great motion picture. There are too many loose
story threads and one too many artificial and cliched lines of dialogue for
such a title. The picture also, perhaps, takes just a little too much time
getting to the storm, and fleetingly tests the patience. Once it gets going,
though, it never lets up. As a purely visceral experience, "The Perfect
Storm" is an electrifying powerhouse, undoubtedly the most exciting and
rewarding action-thriller of the summer.
Copyright © 2000 Dustin Putman